Month: August 2013

Guacamelee! Review/Opinion

guacameleeban

For something that could have gone so terribly wrong, it’s far too reverent to be offensive. That’s a rare thing in today’s world of satire dripping in cynicism.

Guacamelee! Review

Guacamelee revels in death. In celebratory style it presents a Mexico of two worlds intertwined. Of the living and of the dead. Unlike other games with the same conceit, it treats both with equal gravity. The dead world isn’t the ‘underworld’, but one that runs parallel to ours. In the living world, Juan Aguacate is a strong but beaten down man. He failed to live up to his dream of being a Luchador and has accepted the fate of agave gatherer. It’s only when he visits the land of the dead that his destiny becomes clear. Juan dons a mystic Luchador mask and sets out on a quest to make things right in both worlds. To accomplish this, he (you) has to explore ancient ruins and magical forests. In these places you find Chozo Statues which give him the ability to traverse otherwise untraversable terrain. If this all sounds familiar it’s because you probably played Super Metroid or any recent Castlevania. Like those games, progress come only when you get the ability to double jump, or smash through certain colored rocks with a special technique. The statues that you destroy to gain these skills are intentionally reminiscent of Super Metroid.

cameo_guacamelee_choozo_statue_thm

The difficultly curves up at a steady pace and is aided by an extremely tight level design. Nothing about it makes you feel like you can’t accomplish the complicated platforming . Techniques like phasing in and out of the two worlds in order to make platforms appear and disappear as needed are presented gradually. Similarly, the enemy encounters ramp up in difficulty. Never content to just throw the same angry skeletons at you, Guacamelee challenges you to not only beat the ever increasing menagerie of baddies but also to get the highest combo while doing it. That makes failing feel less overwhelming. You’re eager to try and get an ever more ridiculous score. This oldschool style is intertwined into gameplay even more tightly by the inclusion of a speedrun leaderboard.

This instantly recognizable gameplay is surrounded by a distinct Mexican flair. The music and art both exude Mexican culture. It’s a caricature, to be sure, but one that feels brisk and full of life. It doesn’t set out to ridicule the culture it draws inspiration from but instead to transform it into a moving comic. The action is fluid and well paced as well, with restful areas always intertwined between battle arenas.

The one thing I can say negatively about Guacamelee is the overuse of current popular internet culture. The good thing is that these memes don’t make up the majority of the sight gags and are in fact, few and far between.

Guacamelee sets out to do a specific thing and executes on that plan to near perfection. When a game is this good at what it does, I can’t think of any reason to avoid it.

Guacamelee! Opinion

I’ve always loved Dia de los Muertos.

As a boy growing up in New Mexico there was ample opportunity for me to be exposed to it. Every October at school there would be those days in class when we’d talk about the ‘Day of the Dead’ and it fascinated me. It’s because I loved Halloween so much. Halloween, like many children, was my favorite holiday. We’d dress up as whatever we wanted and go around getting candy and generally being little ghouls. There’s a current of vague menace that runs through the holiday. An air of danger made more palpable by tales of razor blades in apples and the threat of being caught throwing toilet paper at houses. When you’re a kid, that rather tame kind of danger is like a drug. It’s what made a generation of us watch ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark’ and ‘Gremlins’. The thing about Dia de los Muertos is that it’s a bizarro world Halloween. It embraces the morbid undertones that are only touched on in Halloween and celebrates them. Whereas one holiday is about tricking people into giving you candy at night, the other is about reveling in death and honoring those who came before.

Me Am Halloween

Wikipedia Commons

Guacamelee straddles that line of honor and revelry as well. It’s awash in the colorful world of Dia de los Muertos. It’s based in a Mexico where El Presidente’s daughter loves a failed Luchador and those Luchadors are revered by the public as heroes. It’s not impossible to imagine a world where these masked wrestlers are able to travel between the worlds of the living and dead and save them both because idea of the Luchador is just as mysterious and slightly dangerous as the idea of celebrating the dead. It’s why they’re an enduring part of Mexican culture. Like the superhero comics of turn of the century America, Luchadors represented something more and populist and liberating. The perfect protagonist, as it were. Someone wearing a mask that you could don and thus become otherworldly as well.

Drinkbox paints a perfect caricature of the Luchador in this game. They honor it, but also poke some fun at it. For example, when your hero Juan turns into a chicken, he’s still wearing a tiny Luchador mask. Something probably unthinkable to anyone who takes it too seriously. Guacamelee can get away with doing it because it feels like it’s in good fun. In comparison, Jack Black’s ‘Nacho Libre’ at times felt too stereotypical and self serving to be a proper treatment… Guacamelee is the perfect companion to the antics of the wrestlers today.

For something that could have gone so terribly wrong, it’s far too reverent to be offensive. That’s a rare thing in today’s world of satire dripping in cynicism.

Certain Age Gaming for August 25th, 2013 “Exploding Chinese Condoms”

With a lost episode behind us and endless opportunity in front of us, we proudly move forward to talk about Divekick and Medal of Honor. Well, Kody talks Divekick and James talks Medal of Honor (2010). Justin played dice with some people in a corner while reading Numenera sourcebooks and drinking adult beverages. His liver was unavailable for comment.

If you want to participate in the show, join us at http://www.twitch.tv/certainagegamer on Sundays at 10:00 PM EST.

If you’d like a reminder or forewarning before we go live, follow the certainagegamer twitter account.

Certain Age Gaming for August 25th, 2013

CA Gaming final

Blog/Podcast Announcement

Your casual gaming advocate and blog administrator ( -slash- blog housekeeper -slash- editor -slash- awesome person) here with an exciting update!  I’m taking time out of homework to share this so listen up.

Certain Age Gaming podcasts are now on the iTunes store.

For free. Gratis, gratuitement, kostenlos, kostnadsfritt!

It’s true, here’s a link:

Click here for Podcast on the go

Now you can listen to the guys argue on your run, or in the car.  Whenever and where ever podcasts can be enjoyed really.  Let us know in the comments if you have any problems with the link, or downloading.  Enjoy!

That’s the Last Time I Give Phil Rogers Advice

Square-Enix is up to their old tricks again.

Weeks after Phil Rogers (CEO of Square-Enix of the Americas) came out spitting fire about wanting to do things different at the aging giant of a company, Darrell Gallagher posted a blog on Gamasutra about the future of the company and what it means to make games in the ever changing gaming industry.

The title asks everyone “How do you tackle industry change?”. Someone’s got to ask the question. The gaming industry is going through what seems like cataclysmic shifts in where the money is coming from. The giants of the past are all scrambling to figure out how to syphon as much money as possible from these shifts and as the head of product development, Darrell Gallagher needs to ask this question. It’s not, however, the only question he asks.

Every day hundreds of talented individuals across our studios come into work with a single question in mind: How do I make the best game possible?

Here we go. Now we’re getting somewhere. Changes, yes… but how can we reconcile these changes while still making the best game possible? That’s where we should be finding answers. Darrell, instead, worries about the changes first.

Overall as a games business – studios and publishing – we have walked away too early from some of the worlds that we have invested so much time and energy in. If we were to ask people that loved our games whether they would enjoy new content or deeper experiences in these digital playgrounds the answer would overwhelmingly be “yes”.

And for me, this is where the future starts. We see the opportunity for some of our games continuing beyond a traditional beginning, middle, and end. We can have them become extendable and more persistent – with an opportunity to build and grow across games. To design in a way to keep our games alive for years instead of weeks. I’m not talking about an MMORPG – although the concept is similar – I’m talking about creating persistent online experiences built on the foundations of the games we are well known for. Now, this doesn’t apply to every game, there is no one solution that works in every case, but as a wider goal it’s certainly something which some of our franchises are incredibly well suited to and something I want to explore further.

In short, he feels like games should be vehicles for persistent worlds.

His solution is to push a paradigm, and then have people make good games around that. Instead of focusing on the games first and then seeing if they fit into his particular idea of where the industry is heading.

Hey, don’t look at me, I tried to give them advice.

Certain Age Gaming for August 11th, 2013 “DANCE PARTY!”

As the final game of the International 3 rages on Kody is not distracted at all! Except for all those times when he is. Luckily BackBerner (Chris) himself steps up to the plate for us for this week in replacement of the missing Justin.  In a shocking turn of events he proceeds to tell us about actual Video Games that he’s played. James also played some Battlefield 3 (via PS+) and Kody loses all of his rares to Alliance. He’s playing the odds, if you will.

Certain Age Gaming for August 11th, 2013

CA Gaming final

Certain Age Gaming for August 4th, 2013 “Japanese Ghosts Love Video Games”

The International 3 is upon us and we try to avoid talking about it. (We fail miserably) We did manage to play a few games as Justin beats Metal Gear Solid 3, James plays Prop Hunt, and Kody talks about the Killzone Mercenary Multiplayer Beta. After that it turns into the Square-Enix hate cast.

Certain Age Gaming for August 4th, 2013

CA Gaming final

Three Games Released on Steam Yesterday, You Should Play Them All

Due to the alignment of the planets or some events foretold ages ago by an old seer, three of the best Indie games released in the last year have all hit Steam on the same day. This may sound daunting, but you should play them all and then laugh about your serendipity and good fortune.

Papers, Please

Papers, Please

In Papers, Please you play a Lottery Winner. You win the opportunity to work as an immigrations official for the glorious (and fake) country of Arstotzka. It’s a thankless job that wears on you emotionally as you have to choose who to let in and who to turn away based on their paperwork and your empathy. It plays out sort of like a puzzle game. You look for potential errors in the paperwork of immigrants and at the end of the day you get paid a certain amount depending on how many mistakes you may or may not have made. This money is then allocated toward your home life for rent, food, heat, etc. Papers, Please had a free beta release a few months ago that you may have heard us talking about, but this Steam release is full of extra content. Our next game started out free as well, but had to work a lot harder to get a proper release on Steam…

Spelunky

spelunky

Spelunky is a game that started out in that nebulous world of Freeware. A downloadable platforming Rogue-Like that caught the attention of someone and eventually made it’s way to Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) where everyone got a taste of it’s unforgiving awesomeness. It’s now re-released back onto the PC in full glory and is a much more robust game than the Freeware one from 4 years ago. The basic gameplay is that of platform exploration. You explore each map finding enemies and items along the way. Each map is randomly generated and resets when you die. There is no progression that will follow you from one playthrough to the next except for the few character unlocks you can get. The game is also slated to release on Vita at some point which, coincidentally, is the home platform for the last of the games released yesterday…

Guacamelee! Gold Edition

guacameleeban

Guacamelee! originally released on the PS Vita April 9th of this year and it secured it’s place as a classic soon after. Brought by Drinkbox Studios (the same people who made the excellent Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack), it’s made in the same gameplay style as the recent Castlevanias. You traverse levels and switch in and out of two different Mexican themed worlds using the abilities gained to find the next make progression. The gameplay is interesting enough but the real joy of Guacamelee! comes from the world it takes place in. It feels like a classic Mexican movie where the hero travels through hell and back for the sake of his love, coupled with a humor that can only be achieved by having your main character’s profession as a Luchador (who’s down on his luck).

All three of these games deserve your attention if you missed them in their original incarnations. This day shall forever be known as Indie Thursday!