QWOPlike puzzle platformer, good with friends, bleh without them. Bit pricey for what you get in my opinion.
Ed Note: Images are from the IGDB game press kit. You can tell because the characters pictured below are either blank, or some level of thoughtful creative outfit, and my custom character had a dick, and “Fuck Single Moms” written on his back.
I have been planning to write about Human Fall Flat for just about two years now. This draft has sat there, staring at me, patiently waiting for its moment to shine. Well, I’m dead out of energy to write about anything this week, so now’s your time to shine buddy. I’m gonna blow the dust off this post, and put it up.
Human Fall Flat is a cooperative, physics-based, 3d-puzzle game. And when I say physics, think physics in more of a QWOP sense than Half Life 2. As a single player game, I wouldn’t recommend it. As a co-op game, I think it can be a lot of fun with at least 3 players, and I have good memories of laughing my ass off while playing it with friends.
This is because of how wonky the controls are. You move with WASD, and left/right mouse button correspond to grabbing with your left and right arms. This grabbiness is binary, meaning you can either be grabbing something, or not grabbing something, but there is no in between. In addition, while you “Move” with WASD, it’s less actual movement than it is making your small blob person waddle in the right direction.
All of this is deliberate. The main difficulty with many of the puzzles in Human Fall Flat is not the actual puzzle, but managing to complete the puzzle while having the acrobatic ability and dexterity of a drunk jellyfish.
It’s this combination of “The spirit is willing, but the flesh made out of marshmallow peeps,” along with the (usually) simple puzzles that made the game enjoyable for me. Trying and failing to make a simple jump is frustrating on your own, but it’s golden to watch your friend jump onto ledge, barely pull themselves up, and then get clubbed by a swinging log and sail into oblivion, all while listening to them curse over Discord.
Then it happens to you, and it’s a tragedy, but your friends are laughing.
All of this takes place across a wide variety of levels, with a pretty good smattering of goals and objectives. In my personal opinion, the earlier levels tend to be longer and more fun than some of the free DLC ones, but there’s a solid amount of content. By far my personal favorite was a level that involved piloting various types of boats, for a given definition of “pilot.” It would be more accurate described as “50% pilot, 50% hanging to the side of the rudder and begging someone to pull you up before you fall off and die.”
That’s really all I have to say on Human Fall Flat. As I’ve already noted, this is a game that really has to be played with friends. As a single player experience, I found it to be stale, and uninteresting.
The game is a bit pricey for what it offers at $20 a person, so my personal suggestion would be to wait for a sale before picking it up. I’d say $10 is closer to what it’s worth. The game is available on everything (seriously, pc, all major consoles, and phones for some reason) but doesn’t support crossplay as far as I’m aware, so if you and the gang do decide to grab it, make sure you all get it for the same platform.
If you still want to grab some copies, you can find it here for PC
Nobody Saves The World is great, and you should play it.
Nobody saves the world is pretty great. Between its use of its ability combo and form swapping mechanics, I found it to be an incredibly fun game. The only problem I have with the gameplay is that it mouse/keyboard simply doesn’t play well. A controller is basically required. Otherwise I had a fantastic time with it.
Nobody Saves the World is played from a top down perspective, where you take on the role of the Nobody, a short, blank eyed sort of blob person with no memories of their past. After waking up in a dilapidated shack, and “borrowing” a magic wand from the home of the great wizard Nostramagnus, you set off on a quest to find Nostramagnus, save the world, and figure out how exactly you got here in the first place.
The magic wand you ‘borrowed’ ends up being the key to all of this, granting you the ability to shift forms. You start out only being able to swap between your pale blobby self and a rat that’s somehow still better in combat than your blobby self. But you’ll start to unlock more forms fairly quickly, such as Knight, Ranger, Magician (the rabbit-from-hat kind) and Egg.
There are two big things about the transformation system in Nobody Saves The World that I like, but explaining them is going to require a little bit more discussion of the other half of the game’s title: the “Saves The World” bit.
See, it turns out that two big problems have popped up at about the same time. The first problem is that the great wizard Nostramagnus who you “borrowed” the magic wand from has disappeared. The second problem is that a giant hivemind flesh blob thing called the Calamity has showed up and is trying to eat the entire world. Presumably Nostramagnus would deal with this if he wasn’t missing.
Anyway, since you have the magic wand, a few other characters decide that you might as well help collect pieces of the gem needed to reseal the Calamity, while they search for Nostramagnus before the world gets treated like a buffet.
Finding these gem pieces, all of which have ended up in large dungeons around the world, sealed by wand stars, is your primary goal. In order to unlock the dungeons, you’ll need to get enough wand stars, and occasionally convince the people guarding these places to let you in. As it turns out, “I am a very legitimate individual, let me through” is actually a pretty terrible way to get into a sacred mausoleum.
I think that’s enough background to give a good picture of the game’s primary gameplay loop. Explore to find locked dungeons, towns, and other stuff. Do side quests and mini-quests to get more wand stars, and unlock the game’s main dungeons. Clear the main dungeons to get MacGuffins to advance the story, giving you more areas to explore. I don’t think explanation quite does justice to how much fun doing all of the above is.
But anyway, remember when I mentioned several paragraphs ago that I like the game’s transformation system for two reasons? Let’s get back to that for a moment. A lot of games with transformation systems seem to use them as glorified keys. Turn into a penguin for the ice zone. Turn into a ninja for the stealth zone. Turn into a cop for the donut zone. But outside of the respective zones, each of those forms is often fairly useless.
NSTW doesn’t do that. While there are a few situations for where you need a form to travel, even those tend to be fairly open (i.e., if you need to get over a large body of water, the turtle, ghost, dragon or mermaid are all equally viable.) But the meat of the transformation system is all about combat, and it feels fantastic.
NSTW resembles an action RPG. Each form in Nobody Saves the World has a basic attack, and a passive ability, in addition to its base stats. These two abilities are locked onto that form, and they are fairly varied. As an example, the horse’s basic attack is a kick that hits behind the it, while the slug’s basic attack is a series of small projectiles that are fired after a brief charge time. The strongman has large slow attack that hits most of the area in front of him, while the ranger fires arrows. All these basic attacks regenerate mana when they hit an enemy.
But the forms aren’t limited to these attacks. As you rank up a form by completing its quests, you’ll unlock additional attacks, and when you hit various thresholds for just leveling in general, you’ll unlock additional passive slots.
Both the additional attack slots and passive slots aren’t locked however. You can switch them out with the attacks and passives of other forms that you’ve unlocked.
Here’s an example: the slug has one of the lowest base movement speeds in the game, but gets access to an ability that grants it 150% movement speed, and leaves a trail of slime on the ground behind it. You could equip the slug with the generic ability that raises its base movement speed to flat value that can’t be lowered. But you could also take that speed boost ability and put it onto the horse, who has one of the fastest movement speeds in the game, boosting its speed to ridiculous amounts, and traverse the map exceedingly fast. Of course, that still risks you running out of mana, so you’ll equip the ability that lets us spend health as mana, and now you have a turbocharged horse leaving a trail of slime behind it as it rockets across the map.
Maybe that’s not good enough though. Perhaps you want to add the strongman’s passive that makes it so that whenever you would bump into an enemy while slime sliding, you knock them back and deal damage to them if they collide with anything. Maybe you want to add the rat’s passive to build poison on hit, or the dragon’s that increases crit chance against the already slowed enemies.
Nobody Saves the World is absolutely chock full of interactions like this, and it encourages you to use them. Every single form has uses, and is fun to play, giving you a heavy amount of customization while also keeping the forms different through their built in basic attacks, and single locked passive.
And perhaps most importantly, Nobody Saves The World knows this, and it tries to show you these combos and tricks. Many of the quests to rank up a form require you to do something that the form’s basic skills won’t allow, and you have to figure out how to mix and match to best meet that requirement.
In addition, not every trick will work in every dungeon. Some dungeons won’t have healing items. Some dungeons will have enemies that are status immune. In one particularly interesting one, all damage dealt both from and to enemies is multiplied by 9,999, and this dungeon isn’t a gag or a joke! It’s a puzzle to be solved with clever ability usage and munchkin tactics.
There’s a few parts to the combat system I’m not even covering here, such as status effects and elemental wards, but I want to talk about another thing the game does as well.
Purely on its combat alone, Nobody Saves The World would be great. However, in addition to that, it has some incredible art, and great writing. The feel of the world reminds me of something like Gravity Falls: a bright, vibrant place but with some bite to it. There are a lot of fairly funny moments, and also a few pretty powerful ones.
Okay, so let’s wrap this up.
I personally think that the highest form of praise that can be given to any piece of media is to engage with it, and for games that means playing it. For Nobody Saves the World, I played through the whole game, and then started the game’s New Game+ mode, and played through all of that. I’ve hit the game’s level cap, gotten every single Steam achievement, and completed every quest. The game is just incredibly fun, and the world, writing and art is so good that I went out of my way to play the whole thing twice.
Nobody Saves the World is available on Steam, and various consoles. It’s like $25, and its absolutely worth it.
PS: For anyone wondering how the egg could possibly be useful… Despite its incredibly low stats, it has a self heal ability. The heal doesn’t heal too much HP, BUT when you shift forms, your HP % stays the same, and if you equip the “Spend life as mana” passive, you heal more than you take. So you can switch to the egg, heal up to full, and then switch back to another form and be back at max health.
PPS: The second highest form of praise (and probably the first highest if you’re actually the developer) is buying the game for other people. I did that too.
Note: The images in this article are from the press kit for Bloodborne, and the game’s concept art. Capturing screenshots from Bloodborne is annoying, and I’m not sure that a bunch more images would do too much for this writeup.
I like Bloodborne. I think it’s very much worth playing. With that said, writing about Bloodborne is hard because there is so much that I could write about. Almost every aspect, from the technology, to the multiplayer, to the art, to the story, to the lore, to just the design and mechanics could have more than its own article.
This article will not be digging into any of those topics to the level they might deserve. My end goal for anything I write for Gametrodon is to convince you, the reader, that a game has something interesting about it that makes it worth playing and engaging with.
In the case of Bloodborne, the game is 6 years old, and exclusive to the last console generation on PS4. I don’t think it really needs someone to advocate that it’s a unique experience, or a good game. The world already knows that it’s both those things. So instead, I’m going to advocate playing the game for folks who might have thought about playing it, but were put off by the game’s somewhat notorious pedigree and difficulty curve. It’s an article directed at… well… me. Me from 70 hours of Bloodborne ago.
First, a little bit of history for those who might not be familiar with Bloodborne, or why the game has the reputation it does. Bloodborne is made by From Software. If you look them up on Wikipedia, you will see the following quote.
FromSoftware, Inc. is a Japanese video game development company founded in November 1986 and a subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation. The company is best known for their Armored Core and Souls series, including the related games Bloodborne, Sekiro, and the upcoming Elden Ring, known for their high levels of difficulty.
“Known for their high levels of difficulty” is the key phrase here. FromSoftware’s Dark Souls series is responsible for naming an entire genre, the “Soulslike” game, in the same way that we get phrases like “Metroidvania.” The “You Died” screen is infamous.
At least in my case, this reputation meant that I had almost no interest in any of their games, despite the fact that they are almost universally praised on every level. This is because I think I misinterpreted “Hard” as “Unfair.”
It is not very difficult to make a game that is very hard to beat. Two examples I can think of would be Kaizo mods/levels for Super Mario Games, and the “I Want To Be The Guy” series. In the case of Kaizo, the difficulty often comes from requiring both near perfect inputs and an absolutely massive chain of them, all while having an almost perfect knowledge of its game. On the other hand, “I Want To Be The Guy” simply puts the player into situations where without knowledge about what is going to happen, the player simply cannot succeed, such as platforms that move when you try to jump on top of them.
Bloodborne’s difficulty doesn’t come from anything like that. Bloodborne doesn’t rely on cheap shots or perfect mechanics to make things difficult. Instead, the difficulty comes punishing you heavily for mistakes or misplays. But almost every time I died, much like with Spelunky 2, I understood why I died. Bloodborne wants you win. It’s just not going to give it to you for free.
Here’s an example: in an area that feels about mid-way through the game, there’s a large rolling log trap that if it hits you, will pretty much just instantly kill you. While this might seem like bullshit, there’re a few important elements about the area that make me view it as incredibly smart game design instead. The first element is that the trap is located incredibly close to one of the game’s respawn points (lanterns), and after only two enemies, making it incredibly easy to get back to your corpse after the trap kills you. The second is that when you look at the area, you’ll see that the trap is actually only triggered when you run across a large button directly in the middle of the road.
This means that after you spot the trap, it’s very easy to avoid it, travel deeper into the marsh, and then get killed by a second trap that’s almost identical.
So why is this first trap important? Well, because to my mind, it’s actually very generous. While deaths in Bloodborne can be punishing, this one isn’t. The purpose of the log trap near the respawn point isn’t to unfairly kill the player, it’s to introduce the concept of the trap to the player, to show the player what it looks like, what happens when they trigger it, and to warn the player that this is an element that might still be encountered farther on. In essence, it’s actually functioning as a tutorial.
The same is true of many of the enemies. Some of the enemies that can combo you to death are first encountered in areas that are either actively detrimental to the enemy, or very near respawn points. And for almost all enemies in the game, choosing to run away and simply not fight them is an entirely valid option.
Bloodborne is not unfair. It asks you to think, and to actively work to defeat it, but it’s rooting for you the whole time. If the pedigree and rumors have made you skip it, or some of the other games made by FromSoftware, I urge you to reconsider. Bloodborne is incredibly satisfying, and worth playing, and if you persevere, you can and will beat it.
And the sun will rise.
Author Note: A brief story for those that aren’t convinced. After beating Bloodborne, I found myself wondering if I’d actually gotten better at the game, or if the game’s small incremental stat buffs, weapon improvements, and other systems had made it so that I eventually made progress without improving. So I made a brand new character with the lowest stats, didn’t take any of the free weapons offered, and replayed the first portion of the game.
A section that took me about 8 hours initially only took me 2 hours with the new character. Two bosses that initially took me over 10-15 tries each took only 3 tries each with this incredibly weak character, and I was using a garbage weapon that I found on the ground and I’d never used prior to this run.
Super Mystery Dungeon came out 5 years ago, but I’m playing it now, so… yeah.
Ed Note: the full name for any of the games in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series tends to be Pokémon Mystery Dungeon : <Title of the Rest of the Game>. Because these titles end up being 7 words long, I’ve shortened them down to just <Title of the Rest of the Game> for this writeup.
I really like the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series. This shouldn’t be confused with the Mystery Dungeon Mainline series, or any of the spinoffs. In fact, I recently tried to play one of the mainline series, which led me back to playing Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon instead, because Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate kicked my ass.
So what exactly makes up the Mystery Dungeon series, why do I like the spinoff Pok é mon games better, and am I filthy casual for jumping off the mainline series?
First off, let’s briefly talk about the Mystery Dungeon Series as a whole. It’s the name for a whole bunch of games published by Chunsoft. And because I’ve only played one game in the series that isn’t a spinoff, I’m gonna just link the Wikipedia article here. Generally speaking, though, it’s one of the few games that can be described as roguelike without annoying that magical group of people who are overly twitchy about the roguelike label being misapplied. That is to say, it’s a turn-based dungeon crawler on a grid.
So, second question. Why do I like the Pokémon spinoff games better? While this article is specifically talking about Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, I’ve played and really enjoyed Blue Rescue Team and Explorers of Time. Gates to Infinity was mediocre. But it didn’t turn me off the series enough to avoid Super Mystery Dungeon when it came out. To answer why I like the spinoff games better than the mainline ones, I’m going to compare the games to what I’ve seen so far of Shiren, and list the things the Pokémon games do differently. Here’re a few of the reasons:
Wiping in a dungeon in the spinoff games doesn’t reset your level. While you do lose all your items and money, you don’t go back to level 1. This means that you can grind your way through bullshit, and a wipe doesn’t feel like a complete loss of progress.
Speaking of which, escape scrolls/escape orbs (items that let you escape the dungeon with all of your stuff if everything looks like it’s about to go to shit) actually drop in the Pokemon games, while they apparently only show up if you get rescued in a dungeon in the mainline series.
Oh, and revival seeds exist, so that when an enemy you haven’t seen before TPK’s your squad, you can actually keep playing, instead of just getting dunked on.
The fact that the game has Pokémon as the characters is a benefit, but perhaps even more importantly for me, as the games go on, you get the ability to play as almost any of them, which gives a massive pool of playable characters.
Outside of all these mechanics though, one thing I’ve always liked about Pokémon in general is the sense of exploration. There’s always been something neat and magical for me about the idea of venturing around somewhere and discovering something fantastic. And while I don’t get that feeling from the current mainline Pokémon games, it’s still present in the Mystery Dungeon spinoffs.
So now that we know why I like the Pokémon spinoffs the best, let’s talk about why I like Super Mystery Dungeon the most of the spinoffs.
While the general gameplay is the same, there are a few big changes to how teambuilding works for the post game. For starters, you recruit new team members by completing missions and adding them to your connection sphere. This is nice compared to the older games which instead required you to defeat an enemy, and then win a hidden role to recruit them. In addition to that, you then had to either complete or escape the dungeon with said team member.
Next up, treasure! Super Mystery Dungeon has treasure chests, like the games before it, but also has gold bars, a secondary currency that you keep regardless of whether you wipe or not in a dungeon. They’re just fun to get, and unlike other items, they don’t actually show up on the mini-map. Instead, they show as little sparkles that you have to walk over, and when you do, you’ll get gold bars or another useful item.
If I have a complaint about Super Mystery Dungeon, it would be that prior to the postgame, the game felt a bit slow. To be fair, I was playing it about 3 years ago. But I remember being frustrated by how slowly I learned new moves and leveled up.
So that’s the Mystery Dungeon set of games. If the idea of a cool little Pokemon dungeon crawler with a massive amount of content and postgame appeals to you, break out that 3DS, grab yourself a copy off eBay, and dive in.
I like Disgaea 5. While I didn’t enjoy the story as much as Disgaea 4, there are a variety of improved mechanics, UI, and massive quality of life features that make it a massive upgrade over its predecessor.
Also, just for clarity here, I’m mostly going to be discussing my experience with the game pre-endgame. I’ve played about 40-45 hours, and while I plan on playing more, that may not happen for a little bit for secret reasons.
So, let’s start with the story, and some of the related mechanics. Across the Netherworlds, now rendered as planets, Demon Emperor Void Dark is trying to take over everything. You’re introduced to some of the main characters, Seraphina, and Killia, both who have a bone to pick with Void Dark. In Killia’s case, he’s a brooding loner. In Seraphina’s case, it’s an arranged marriage to Void Dark that she has no interest in. She’s decided the best way to deal with the problem is to kill Void Dark so she doesn’t have to marry him.
Adventure intensifies, and as the duo go on their merry way, we meet an increasing cast of other indivuals, including Red Magnus, Christo, Zeroken, and Usalia, who all also have their reasons for wanting to see Void Dark six feet under.
There’s not too much else to say. Our band of misfits proceeds from Netherworld to Netherworld, trying to push back Void Dark’s advance while not getting slaughtered. Each of them gets a mini-arc/story around their background and flaws, usually followed by a redemption or adjustment.
While I appreciate that these moments existed, most of them feel standard anime trope-esque. There are a few that are more interesting, but most end up feeling predictable. This annoyed me because 4 did (at least by my standards) a much better job of handling these sorts of changes. Here’s an entire mini-writeup on what I mean, but be warned, here there be story spoilers!
Oh, yeah, this whole thing was supposed to be about new game mechanics, wasn’t it?
Well, one of those new game mechanics is Revenge. Each character has a Revenge Bar that fills as they or their allies take damage. Once a character’s bar is filled, they enter Revenge Mode, where all of their attacks are critical hits, and all of their spells and specials have their costs reduced down to 1.
In addition, characters that are Overlords of a Netherworld, like our MC’s mentioned above, also get access to their Overload. Some bosses get them as well!
Overloads are one-time use per battle skills that have a variety of effects, many of which either play with tactic game tropes, or just utterly break them, and all of which are fun. While some are simple (Deal damage to everyone on the map, stat boost, heal all friendlies) there are also a few really neat ones. My personal favorite would have to be Zeroken’s “Superluminal Wolf” which creates 4 temporary copies of the character. And when I say copies, I mean full copies. Each copy can take any action the original can, up to and including casting all of his specials, throwing units, and lifting enemies. Another character has an ability that allows them to temporarily take full control of a few enemy units.
Overloads can turn fights that are going badly, and at the same time add an interesting element to some of the boss fights. You know your enemy has an Overload, and you have to try to manage their access to it. You can do this by chipping them slowly, trying to take them out in one hit, or just finding ways to avoid the Overload’s effect. Dealing with bosses’ Overloads is a fun and interesting change from how static boss fights were previously.
Pretty much every side system has also been improved, but going into detail on each them would be both a waste of time, and not something I’d be capable of doing. So instead, let’s take one system as an example: innocents.
If you haven’t played a Disgaea game before, it might be easiest to think of innocents as a sort of sub-item that can be socketed into other items. They have a type, and a value. The type determines their behavior, and the value determines the impact. For example, socketing a Gladiator gives the item it’s located in additional ATK, and the Dietician gives additional HP.
These are both fairly straightforward examples, but there are also innocents that give extra EXP, extra Mana, innocents that change the damage type of basic attacks, and innocents that give you chance to steal items from defeated enemies. There’s a lot of variety.
Acquiring innocents is a little more complex, though. One of Disgaea’s primary features is the Item World, a series of semi-random procedurally generated levels that exist inside an item. And inside items is where you get innocents. When you get an item, it will usually have a few innocents inside of it, but they’ll be in the hostile state. When you go into that item’s Item World levels, those innocents can show up as enemies, and if you defeat them, they go to the subdued state.
So how do Disgaea 4 and 5 handle innocents differently?
In Disgaea 4, innocents couldn’t be moved until after they were subdued. This meant that collecting an innocent you wanted required going into an item, clearing levels until it appeared, defeating it, and then repeating this process for each new copy of the innocent. Because of how innocents level up, getting an innocent to its level cap could be even more painful, requiring gathering lots of copies of a single innocent, and fusing them into each other.
In Disgaea 5, non-subdued innocents can be moved between items. So instead of going into 5-10 different items you might not be interested in leveling up to get a bunch of innocents you want, you can now move the innocents you’re farming into a single item, and do one run to gather them in a single fell swoop.
But these changes on their own wouldn’t solve the problem of needing to grind a silly amount of innocents. And that’s where the Innocent Farm comes in.
The Innocent Farm is a daycare center zone where you can leave innocents, and they passively gain levels as you do other things. In addition, if you leave two or more innocents in the Innocent Farm, they can breed, giving you even more innocents.
And these sorts of improvements are present across the rest of the game’s systems as well. Better capture mechanics and prisoner management. The Chara World is now its own unique Mario Party style world… thing, instead of being a sort of rip-off of the Item World.
Okay, so looking back at this whole writeup, I think I might have rambled enough. Here’s the five second version of my thoughts:
Disgaea 5 is a mechanical improvement over 4, both for its subsystems (and tweaks to make them more friendly), and also its improvements to the combat structure. While the story didn’t grab me the same way 4’s story did, it’s still solid. It just doesn’t surpass the usual JRPG tropes the same way some of it’s predecessors do. The end result is an incredibly solid game that I’d probably recommend over earlier games in the series, because as much as I like the story, this isn’t a series that I personally play for the writing.
Disgaea 5 Complete is available for Switch, PC, and Playstation 4. I played on PC with a controller, because, well, mouse and keyboard just doesn’t cut it for grid based tactics games.