Punch Club

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Punch Club is a time-management Boxing Simulator. It’s ridiculous, it’s funny, it and I guess that’s going to set the tone for this review.

You are Hero (that’s the default name anyway). One night, your father gets killed by a man in black with a red eye. You decide to get swole and take revenge. As you do this, you find yourself in a fighting tournament or two that seem to style themselves as “Boxing” but permit kicks, so maybe it’s muay thai. I dunno. I’m a robot that lives in a server room playing video games. Along the way, you become Batman with allusions to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (title image) and Silent Hill (I won’t spoil this one but it’s really dumb and I love it). You find love, you beat up a Russian. You get to participate in mecha fights! (Mecha fights make everything better… ) This game just has so many little jokes and references. It’s amusing.

The game has stylized aesthetics and the music is this Eye of the Tiger remix that is actually pretty good. I made a boxing character because I totally read too much Hajime no Ippo. The game is sufficiently challenging. It took me over 300 (in-game) days to finish the game but I did waste a bunch of days on stuff that I’ll mention later. The fights can get pretty tense as you sit there hoping RNGsus is in your favour but then complain when you repeatedly get knocked out because you have negative stamina. And then you win the fight anyway because your boxing character can do combos that deal over a third the opponent’s health when they actually hit.

The storytelling is… sub-par. It’s not anything to write home about. There’s a main story and a series of substories. These substories do not seem to have much in the way of time limits. I locked myself out a substory by becoming a professional boxer fighter so maybe I should’ve completed it but it’s too late now. The main story has all of the usual tropes that you probably expect in a fighting game. And it has a very poorly written ending. It also kind of fades to black at an improper time.

Unfortunately the game does not seem to be balanced around being an all-around good fighter but rather by specializing in one stat. It tells you so much very early in the game. I would’ve liked for it to reward well-rounded players a little more. I did a hybrid of Power and Stamina, leaving out Agility. Agility determines how accurately you hit. So I have a heavy hitter than always misses. And even with my stamina training, I still found myself running out of stamina all the time. But maybe I’m just bad. Towards the end, the game becomes a bit of a grind and the pacing slows down drastically. Which leads up to the aforementioned poorly timed ending.

The game also does not explain some of the character interaction mechanics so I wound up wasting what must’ve been like 3 weeks trying to fix my friend’s engine so he’d train with me. I actually had to look up what the deal was and apparently the engine never gets fixed, but that the lines that my friend says indicate whether or not I’ve ‘chilled’ with him long enough to get him to train with me. Also, let’s be real here. I was the only one fixing his engine. The lazy SOB never got off the chair.

I do like the game, but I’m sitting on the fence with this one. I give it a pass because I found it amusing, but take this positive review with the grains of salt. It’s probably a toss-up whether or not you find it to be a fun game. Let’s not forget that the most important part of a game is whether or not it’s fun. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

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Punch Club

Orwell

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Steam Page

Orwell, in a not-so-subtle nod to George Orwell’s criticism of totalitarianism (*CoughCommunismCough*) 1984. I’ve actually read 1984. It’s not bad. It’s not great, and quite frankly I think it’s more of an observation than a story which in my eyes weakens it. It’s also an incredibly quick read so I do recommend you check it out. On a scale of 1-10? Probably a 7. Amusing, but not the best. Slightly better than average.

Anyway, the gameplay of Orwell is unconventional and reminds me greatly of Papers, Please. Which is another game I should write a review on and I do recommend it. In it you scan documents for information and upload this information into a mega-database which contains details on everyone under investigation (at this time). Presumably, Orwell would be expanded to cover all citizens. In the name of peace, surely! Everyone can trust the government to know every detail about them to make sure that they’re entirely safe!

Light Spoiler Warning: Orwell is a narrative, a visual novel of sorts. I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers.

Throughout the course of Orwell you follow the individuals of an organization called ‘Thought’ named after some German poem. Thought is an alleged terrorist organization. Your job is to follow the members of this organization to prevent terrorist activity. The first person you investigate is a woman with blue hair and problem glasses because of course she is. Which now presents us with our question. What scale of authoritarianism would be acceptable in the name of protecting people? As the game progresses, it gets to the point where almost the slightest connection to someone (perhaps eating lunch or seeing a movie together) is grounds for investigation. Authoritarianism seems to have a very tough job reigning itself in from being conventionally oppressive.

You know, I could not help but giggle with glee as I listened to phone calls of people and other people got blamed for things that I did. It was glorious! And it kept happening! I felt no guilt at all for doing my job. Perhaps that’s the point of the game. Thinking.jpg

The art style is… quirky. Not bad. Just quirky. The music is pretty okay too. My (small) gripe (I guess) is how long I had to wait for responses when it came to monitoring calls and SMS. I get that it’s supposed to be realistic, that’s the point. Not really a point against the game, I just felt that it was sometimes a little long.

Overall, excellent game. Quite a nice length for the price ($10 at the time of posting). Of course, cheaper is always better. I think my first playthrough had a run of about 4 hours and there are multiple endings (all of which, I did not explore). It’s a thumbs up from me. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Orwell

Super Impossible Road

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Steam Page

I write this review as the game is still in Early Access. I say that not because I plan to go easy on the game or something, just as a heads up to those that will consider buying the game. I’ve always maintained that “Early Access” is not an excuse for how good or bad a game is. Once you put it on the marketplace, you’re fair game… in my opinion.

Super Impossible Road is a racing game. There’s really not much to say about racing games in general. You control a ball. You can modify your ball to have the stats that you want it to have but let’s be real here, does anyone ever care enough to min-max perfectly? If you do, please send me a message, I need to know what’s going on in your head.

The tracks have gates on them which fill up your boost bar. Using boost makes your ball go a little faster (obviously). Where this game differs from other racing games that I’ve played is that you can jump off the track to “cheat” your way to finish line faster. That’s why the game’s tagline “Winning is cheating”. Now you can’t just jump off the track and free fall to the finish line for victory. The game would be too easy in that case. Upon leaving the track, you have five seconds to return to the track. If you fail to touch the track in that time, you will automatically respawn at the last boost gate you touched. Which means that you have to be really careful about deciding when to ‘cheat’. Otherwise you may waste up to five seconds. If you see the writing on the wall that you’re not going to make it, you can force respawn early.

The tracks can be fairly complex. At this time, while there are only three ‘tracks’, the tracks are procedurally generated so it’s like having an infinite number of tracks? There’s also a daily track where you can compete with people across the world for the top score.

The game is aesthetically appealing (to me) with that ‘Tron’ feel. I’m not the biggest fan of EDM so there’s only one or two soundtracks that I like but it definitely matches the feel of the game. Excellent job.

While the game does have multiplayer, it seems it only has local multiplayer. Perhaps they will change that as it is still in early access. You can still have CPU racers and you can even race against your ghost. So it has some rudimentary tools.

Anyway, at the time of writing, the game is priced at $12. While I do like the game for what it does, I don’t think it’s worth $12 yet. Do it if you want to support the creators but other than that, I’d wait for it to go on sale or something for $5 or $6. I’m not the biggest fan of racing games so I won’t dump too many hours into it, but in my opinion, it does look promising. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Super Impossible Road

Tallowmere

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Tallowmere is a dungeon diving roguelike. A return to basics, maybe. This game features all of your favourite people. We got bitches be spitting mad rhymes, Mike ‘Taze the Rainbow’ Pence, we got Allahu Ackbar, we even got President Donald ‘Grab em by the Pussy’ Trump.

Tallowmere (to my knowledge) is one of those endless games where you just scoreboard whore. Nothing wrong with that, just makes it a timesink rather than an experience. The controls are fairly easy to pick up and it has many ways to challenge players. The weapons you find each have unique controls even if some of them seem absurdly overpowered. I think with the exception of three weapons: the dagger, the club, and the grenade, all attacks home in on enemies and the differences between the weapons are usually how you’re affected as you use them. For example, the ice wand hand a weird range where it won’t angle up or down that much. The rocket launcher has a longer range and a faster projectile, but it knocks you back. Don’t use it next to walls or spikes (I have the achievement you get for suiciding by rocket). The katana has to be my favourite weapon even if I think it’s terrible. When you use it, you teleport to a nearby enemy and you can do this to easily bypass walls and traps. The drawback is, in rooms with large hordes of enemies, it’s easy to lose track of yourself. And when you suddenly die because you didn’t realize you had fallen into a spike pit, it can be annoying. But seeing myself fly across the room killing everything in 1 hit is just sheer delight that whenever I would get bored (usually around floor 50 or 60) I would just suicide using the katana.

Unfortunately, two things play against it. One thing is that you can sacrifice kittens for more health and that’s not okay. I mean, seriously, what the fuck. And you get an achievement for sacrificing all nine. Which I totally only did for SCIENCE! Also because I like to collect achievements.  The second thing (real thing here) that plays against it is that the difficulty curve drops off rather abruptly. After getting some good equipment on floors 1-10 it can become trivially difficult to kill all of the mobs and get better equipment which makes the future floors trivially difficult… The game becomes too easy. And this is why I wind up stopping or suiciding with the katana.

Overall, I think that the game is quite fun to play and well worth a few dollars if you have some hours to spare. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Tallowmere

My Review Process

If you’ve been following this blog for a few months, you’ll no doubt realize that while I tend to write about whatever I want to write about, I generally write reviews of… stuff. Usually games and I’d like to expand it to movies but I’m not really sure I know how to evaluate a medium that I spend so little time in. I spend my life absorbed in manga, anime, and video games, so I know those quite well. If I did eventually start reviewing movies, I would probably review them like I do anime, but that’s a topic for another day. Today I wanted to talk about my review process – particularly for games.

So what is it that makes a game good? Simple – is it fun? That’s probably it. Time to go home folks!

Nah, there’s more. So I look for a myriad of things in games. The first thing I look for (other than whether or not it’s fun) usually depends on the game and what it’s marketed as. See, it’d be unfair for me to evaluate a roguelike as an RPG because they’re two totally different types of games. In a roguelike, the gameplay is usually designed to be endlessly playable, and it’s almost arcade-like in ‘How far can I go’ in nature. While an RPG is designed as a wish fulfillment game, in which you either choose or are given a ROLE to PLAY in this GAME. Since you’re filling a role, there’s usually a role to fill, which means a criticism I often offer in RPGs such as character consistency/motivation is valid there. It would be silly and (as I said earlier) unfair to use such a method of evaluation on a roguelike because that’s not the point of a roguelike. Now this is not to say that RPGs cannot offer roguelike elements and indeed many no doubt do. Long story short – I have different criterion for different types of games.

Actually I don’t want to assign any more numbers because it’s not like I’m going through the game checking off a list. I’m just experiencing the game and these are the things I notice. So no more numbers, just observations.

There are few things that will kill my interest faster than playability. A game needs to be easy to pick up and play or I’ll just leave. I often bring this issue up when it comes to games with difficult to use controls. I shouldn’t need a Ph.D. in Euclidean Geometry to use the ‘Jump’ button. While some developers seem to think that complexity makes a combat system better, I’m going to have to rain on that parade and inform you that it doesn’t. If your game’s controls are so difficult that you need to spend a good 30 minutes to an hour inside a tutorial room, maybe think about your controls again.

The complexity of a gameplay should serve the player in allowing multiple styles of play. This is also a double-edged sword because players are lazy bastards. And what the developers might have intended as giving you options might turn into an effort in futility because the players will always find the easiest way to do a job. So in my mind, a well-done gameplay system will permit many styles of play, but again – we need to keep the type of game in mind. A game like Dark Souls permits the use of many weapon styles and doesn’t have ‘one’ way to complete the game which opens up the game to many different styles of play (though good luck doing the catacombs first). Meanwhile, (and I’m gonna step on a few toes here) a game like Pokemon Red doesn’t really permit too much in the way of variability. You’re all but trapped into using whatever the enemy is weak against or being overleveled compared to the enemy. The later games fix this by adding natures/abilities/move variability. (Though dragon types were super meta for waaaaaay too long)

Part of all games is the atmosphere and one thing that can really make or break an atmosphere is music. Music allows the developer to manipulate the player into feeling a certain way. I’ve recently watched Wolf Children (several times) and I love the movie. Some scenes are great by themselves, such as the snow scene where Hana, Ame, and Yuki are playing. Beautiful. Try watching it without music and then try watching it with music. What you should find is that the music just adds this sheer euphoric delight and turns what would be a great scene into a phenomenal scene. I have no doubt that you could also play with the lighting and music to turn that joyous scene into the prelude of something terrible. Managing the audio in your game to enhance the atmosphere and experience is pretty important to crafting a good game, and is something that I think can ‘rescue’ poor games.

I like to rag on this when it comes to games (especially RPG Maker games because they’re the worst offenders that I see) but the art style has to be CONSISTENT. Art that looks out of place is very jarring to the gaze and I’m going to be spending quite a few hours in this world that you’ve crafted. If I have an eyesore in my line of sight for most of that time I’m going to be saying “Great, I have to go through this town AGAIN” quite a few times, which may make me quit the game.

So I don’t generally don’t review games until I’ve finished them. I’ll make exceptions (game is too long, game is shit, game does not appear to have an ending) but I usually want to play to the credits. This can often be ‘inconvenient’ to a review release schedule but it does give me one additional tool: my feelings. If at any point I find myself saying “Christ, is this game almost over” it signals to me that I’m not enjoying this game. And remember – first and foremost a game should be fun. That’s not to say that bad games can’t be fun, they certainly can and I think that’s where we run into the playerbase creating their fun within the game. There’s nothing wrong with this, though it may make it more difficult for me to rate a game positively.

I do add caveats in my reviews, recognizing that not all games are for everyone. Now if you remember I wrote a post a while ago on how people review things (1-10) incorrectly. Well, I don’t use 1-10 incorrectly. So my bar for reviewing a game as positive is average or better. I know, it means that I will say you should buy most games, but that’s why you should take the rest of the review in context to see if that’s something you actually want to spend money on. Think of my reviews as a brief insight into the game that you can consider before buying them, rather than as a ‘Yes = buy, No = don’t buy’.

Anyway, that’ll be it from me for now. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

My Review Process

JumpJet Rex

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I regret to inform you that I write this review without having finished the game. Not for lack effort, but because it’s just not feasible. I’ll go into why later in the review.

JumpJet Rex is a colourful speedrun game about a dinosaur that collects stars to save the universe. Something like that anyway. There are some 30+ delightful little worlds with each type of world (ice, desolate space base, etc.) seeming to have their own little chiptune to go with it. And these are some damn good chiptunes. I bought the game through Chrono GG so it came with the soundtrack and my god was it worth it. Definitely got some workout tunes out of it (should I ever be finish my selection of podcasts). Really, have a listen to some of them. You can also customize the appearance of your dinosaur, 4 elements. Head, skin tone, shoes, jumpjet particles. But that’s dress-up and I don’t find it particularly enjoyable.

In each level you collect rings to unlock the gate. Pass the finish line and you’ve completed it, you earn a star. You can earn up to three stars per level. One for completion, one for not dying, and one for speedrunning. You need to collect some number of stars to unlock the next few levels. Simple enough. I usually settled for completing without dying to grind stars because I only needed to be careful to progress. But some levels are easy to speedrun if you take advantage of checkpoints (and dying). So I took those too. You can also download ghosts within the game of the top players in the world or people near your skill level to see how they do things. So it provides a good improvement tool within the game, well done.

As the game goes on, and certain elements get added to the levels, I saw some SIGNIFICANT frame drops. Like, we’re talking 2 fps frame drops. The culprits seem to be certain environmental objects. Patches of thorns that disburse leaves and these globules that travel up and down. And it became a real pain on a particular boss fight called ‘Seedmour’ in which the level is full of these thorn patches so after maybe a minute of fighting the boss you’d be unable to do anything for several minutes due to the fps drop. Alt-tabbing seemed to help, but I don’t know for sure. That boss fight was a particularly annoying because after dropping the boss’s health to zero you also had to ground-pound it before it got back up and if you happened to be stuck in 2 fps time when that window presented itself… prepare yourself to have to hit it again because there’s no way you’re going to do it in time. And this is why I haven’t finished the game. Because in the later levels this becomes a constant issue and you kinda need the frames in a speedrunning game if you want it to be fun. (I suspect the issue is some kind of garbage collection or object recycling code).

Other than that though, the game is brilliant. Definitely recommend giving it a go. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

JumpJet Rex

Words for Evil

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Steam Page

I write this review without having finished the game, but since I find no indication that there is a ‘finish’, I think it’s fair.

You play as a party of adventurers completing “quests”(let’s call them that)… for some reason. In fact the quests are scarcely explained so I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing except typing random letters and seeing if LJCQUES is a word that the game will accept. As you travel from scene to scene, occasionally people will request to join your party to which you have only two responses. “Absolutely” and “No”. Quite a jarring contrast of responses.

RPG elements are introduced in the form of character classes and upgrades. Every class gets three types of attacks and each can be upgraded three times (max level of 10 for each character). You can upgrade stats at blacksmiths through purchasing equipment and equipping them to your characters. There’s no equipment screen and there doesn’t seem to be a limit to how many things you can equip to a character so I like to imagine my archer had like a sword (not even a bow, a sword) for every finger and was wearing 4 types of chest armor. Lord knows how he did it, but he did it.

You type words at the screen for like an hour and then you get to the end of your map. Along the way you’ll find treasure or evade traps. Then you will be presented with some text “Book Found” or something like that and you’ll be told to move to next zone or to stay in your current zone. Very immersive.

I don’t really have any complaints about execution. Everything is done quite well. The artwork is nice, and consistent. It has that old 16-bit feel. The fights are… well, typing. If you manage to screw up so much that your heroes drop to 0 HP (maybe you were alt-tabbed) you are offered a chance to keep them alive by typing a 6 or 7-letter word.

Did I phone this one in? I know it’s short but it’s really not a complex game. You type words. Kinda missing where the ‘Evil’ is. I don’t think there’s enough in this game to really extend beyond “type words until done”. I’m going to say no on this one. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Words for Evil