Indie Wonderland: Epistory — Typing Chronicles

Serious question to all y’all: How do you folks keep track of interesting games? With 2017 being some sort of Good Games Singularity, it feels like a necessary luxury to keep track of games you want to at some point, but just not right now. I used to have a Steam Wishlist for that sort of thing, but the combination of a terrible user interface and my own ever-expanding interests means that that option has been on a slow Akira reenactment ever since 2014. I sometimes keep Steam store tabs open in Google Chrome, but that’s sort of crumbling under the same problem: I currently have 125 tabs open over six different windows, and none of them are tabs I feel I can ever close. So, that leaves me… what? Calendar reminders? Post-its? Writing on my whiteboard?

I’ll tell you what apparently does work. I have two monitors, with the right one serving as my ‘main desktop’; as you’d probably imagine, that place is a sprawling wasteland of a hundred icons. But the left desktop is still relatively pristine. So I’ve taken to a measure so stupid that I can’t believe I ever thought it would work: Writing down game names as file names for empty text files, and then dropping those onto the desktop.

No, seriously. This is not a goof.

Right now I’m getting ready to play Fishing CactusEpistory – Typing Chronicles, which I just bought and downloaded after seeing my desktop reminder. I hate that this goddamn system apparently works (for now), but I’ll take what I can get.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium. Mechanical, medium-high.)

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: Epistory, a game that so far I’ve studiously avoided telling you anything about. What even is this game? Why did it warrant my incredibly careful reminder?

‘Indie Wonderland’: Clockwork Empires, Or The Curious Case Of The Review That Didn’t Happen

This one might get a little meta.

Long-term readers might remember that in the past I’ve been a very vocal fan of Gaslamp Games‘s Dungeons of Dredmor. Still a fan, in fact, I’m just less vocal about it. I didn’t just write a praise-filled review on the still-defunct Blue Screen of Awesome, but later followed that up with a four-page in-depth screed about all the reasons I loved that game. Ninjustin and I even had tentative plans to use Dungeons of Dredmor as the basis for a charity donation drive event. Donations for Dredmor, we’d call it. Hell, that might still pan out someday — TM, TM, TM, and all that.

So when Gaslamp Games announced their second game, Clockwork Empires, a steampunk- and Chthonic-inspired colony builder, I… I generally try to not get swept up in hype, ever since Oblivion did what Oblivion does. But I was more invested in Clockwork Empires than I usually am in games in development. I really kept up with the dev blogs for a while. I checked the Steam page for news and release dates. I even found myself tentatively planning what I’d do with Clockwork Empires when it came out: Review it for Indie Wonderland, or maybe use it as the basis for another Let’s Play? The sky was the limit in those halcyon days. I didn’t actually engage with the game when it hit Early Access, because I’ve got weird documented hangups about Early Access, but I waited.

And then Clockwork Empires actually came out. I’ll give you a moment to search the site for how much I’ve written about it since release. I’ll give you another moment to figure out where out site’s search functionality is hiding. A third, final moment is reserved for the realization that I just deliberately asked you to waste your time; yeah, it’s nothing. I got Clockwork Empires on release, and I even played it a bunch, and then I never mentioned it on the site or wrote anything about.

It turns out that Clockwork Empires just kind of sucks.

Or at least, it did suck. It’s been months since I played it; my last screenshot is dated November 20th, 2016. Might be that it got real good after I stopped playing. Might not be. A quick browse through the Steam reviews seems to reveal that Gaslamp Games stopped all work on Clockwork Empires in December of that year, so I think my take is probably still accurate.

Truth be told, I didn’t write about Clockwork Empires back when I played because I was disappointed. That’s not a good reason to not write; in fact, if anything, a disappointing game should get more press. But for the longest time, I just didn’t want to. I wanted this game to be good, and it wasn’t, and then I just wanted to not think about it again. But I did keep all my screenshots from that play time. I don’t know what’s driving me to write about it right now; maybe I just want to get some lingering disappointment off my chest. Maybe I think a late warning is better than no warning. Maybe there are lessons to be learned from the ways Clockwork Empires disappointed. Or maybe the triple-A game releases in 2017 are off the chain and I’m lagging behind on my indie game coverage like some kind of rank amateur. You choose.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, not really a factor as far as I know. Mechanical, high-ish.)

(Game source: Bought it myself)

After the break: The three whys of Clockwork Empires.

Indie Wonderland: Oxenfree

Random Jarenth Trivia: You know what bit of game dialogue has managed to stick in my mind for almost seven years now? It’s from Alpha Protocol, the section where you have a shootout with the coked-up Russian gangster (I won’t pretend to remember his name). And one of his voice taunts he uses now and again is something like, “Oh, American! Come out, come out, wherever you are! Olly olly oxenfree, whatever the fuck that means.” It stuck with me because whatever the fuck does that mean? I know the phrase, but I’ve never understood what it means, or what the context is. I want to reiterate here that I’ve been thinking about this for seven years.

But you know how I’m finally going to put this to rest? No, not ‘just fucking Google it’, what kind of pedestrian do you take me for? My plan is to play Night School Studio’s Oxenfree. Surely the best source to finally put the source of this weird saying to bed is a tangentially titled game about a bunch of teenagers spending the night on a spooky island!

What could possibly go wrong with this plan?!

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium. Mechanical, medium-high.)

(Game source: Bought it myself, apparently.)

After the break: Darkness, tape recorders, pop quizzes, ghost spooks, doomed frequencies. Turns out a lot of things can go wrong in Oxenfree.

No Stream Week (Week of 3-27-2017)

Ninjustin here, and I’ve got terrible news! I’m going to be on vacation for next week. I forget what the vacation’s about, something about getting on a giant boat with a bunch of other people to sail to some islands. Anyway, I thought I should let you folks know since Twitter is awfully impermanent when it comes to announcing things, and I wouldn’t want any regulars to show up to the stream (or lack thereof) and wonder what’s going on.

I also wanted to give a big thank-you to everyone who’s been watching my streams. I’ve been streaming regularly for the better part of a year now (had to check the calendar myself to confirm it) and it’s been a very fulfilling activity. Talking about games, while playing games, and interacting directly in real-time with the people interested in your words is incredibly engaging, and I’m happy to continue doing it.

I’m considering posting here regularly to give updates on what games I’m streaming, possibly even set specific games for specific dates each week so you can look ahead of time and see if you can watch me stream the game you’re interested in. Please let me know if you’d like me to do this!

If you’re curious, lately I’ve been mostly streaming World of Warcraft, For Honor, Elite: Dangerous, Hearthstone, WASTED, and just recently I started a playthrough of Skyrim: Special Edition with several mods that give it a survivalist edge.

Here’s a link to my channel, and as always, thanks for reading and for watching. See you in about a week.

Ninja Blues Writers Room: Jarenth

Hey readers. No normal review this week, sorry: It was the kind of week where I had very little time to play new games. Regular service should resume next week, assuming the universe is up for it.

Because I try to never leave you empty-handed, in lieu of a review I decided to this week write something that was requested in comments a few weeks back: An overview of / insight into my writing process. Behind the curtains at the sausage factory, so to say. I don’t know if this is of interest to any of you, and I have to stress that there really is no game review in the proceeding — I know, that’s something I would do, but I promise it isn’t. If you’ve ever wondered how I go about producing the content that I do, though, I guess today’s your lucky day.

After the break: Keep on reading, you strange soul you, for a look at all my writing secrets.

Indie Three-For-One Land: Ninja Abzû Blade

Hey readers. It’s been a while since I did one of these triple features. I usually do these either when I have a backlog of smaller games that I don’t think have enough meat for a full review, or when I didn’t get far enough into a larger game the previous week. Those of you who’ve seen my Twitter account devolve into non-stop Breath of the Wild screenshots may be able to guess the cause this time.

Not to say that the games I want to talk about this week aren’t interesting, though; there’s a reason I had each of them in my backlog. I’ve got a diverse set for you this week: one game about morphing, one game about diving, and one game about bullying. And jumping. And rolling. And delivering pizza. And piquing your interest enough to keep reading, hopefully.

(Or skip ahead to page 2’s Abzû, or page 3’s Morphblade.)

After the break: Pizza, water, and liquid metal, in no particular order or combination. That’d be rad, though, could you imagine?

Indie Wonderland: Night in the Woods

Yeah, let’s not even pretend to be surprised about this one. Last week’s social media timelines were positively abuzz with Infinite Fall’s Night in the Woods. Couldn’t go five posts without seeing big-eyed black cats or cyclopean foxes with cups on their ears. I… actually know very little about this game? As we’ve established, part of my crafty review strategy is to craftily remain almost entirely unaware of upcoming or anticipated games. Can’t buy into the hype if you don’t know about the hype, I always say. As a result, Night in the Woods is essentially a mystery to me. I’ve seen crisp animal graphics and I assume there will be woods, at night, but otherwise I’m living-under-a-rock levels of blind.

Which is the perfect mindset for reviewing a recent, popular-buzz game, if you ask me. Almost like I planned it that way.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium, but as low as I can get it. Mechanical, high-ish, but at least I don’t mention the yarn.)

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: I did not, in fact, plan things this way. Anyway, how about that Night in the Woods?

Indie Wonderland: Sproggiwood

Heya, faithful Indie Wonderland readers. This week I’m reviewing a game called Sproggiwood, brainchild of Freehold Games. I am doing this because the game is called Sproggiwood. That’s my entire reason, and it’s a good one.

You might try to argue that I could be interested in Sproggiwood because its Steam page promises a neat combination of roguelike dungeon combat and persistent upgrading, the latter of which is incarnated in a cute voxel-art village that supposedly grows as you adventure. These are good points all, but I’m going to counter by saying Sproggiwood. Guys, it’s a really good work. Say it out loud. Sproggiwood. Really let it roll off the tongue. Sproggiwood. The other stuff helps too, I’m not gonna lie, but if this game’d been called something like The Adventures Of Bob, I probably wouldn’t have…

Actually, that’s a lie, I would 100% play The Adventures Of Bob and everyone here knows that I would. But if that game even exist, and as I write I find myself hoping that it does, it’ll have to wait until this. This week’s Indie Wonderland is 100% Sproggiwood, 100% of the time.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium. Mechanical, medium.)

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: Sproggiwood. Now every time you see that name, reading this review, you’re gonna have to imagine that I’m savoring the word. Haha! You’re welcome.

Indie Wonderland: Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?!

Two weeks ago, Daylight Studios emailed me (somewhat out of the blue) with a Steam review key for their latest game, Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?!. They figured I might be interested in writing about it, given that I reviewed their previous Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! earlier. And they’re not wrong. While my memories of the potato-based weapon shop game are mostly a mixed bag of ‘interesting mechanics’, ‘overuse of pop culture referencing’ and ‘endless grind‘, I can’t say I’m not curious how a sequel to a game about forging fantasy weapons for fantasy ren faires manages to translate itself to space.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, high-ish.)

(Game source: Developer Steam key.)

After the break: Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?!. Seems like the game title itself isn’t quite sure how the move to space happened, either.

Indie Wonderland: Brigador

I picked up Stellar JockeysBrigador on a whim after spotting in in the Steam store. Mechs and tanks rumbling through a cyberpunk war-torn cityscape? Clashing hot-neon colours with electronic soundtrack to match? Dozens of available pilots with varying levels of deep and intricate backstory? I have no idea what we’re doing, but hell yes, sign me the fuck up.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, light. Mechanical, medium.)

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: Brigador. What even is a ‘Brigador’? I’m pretty sure I still don’t know, but who cares?! It’s mech-stompin’ time.