I’m doing one last game diary, and I’ve already decided that next month I’ll move it back to my other blog. Or maybe I’ll stop entirely, and invest more time in my other hobbies, like blogging. In any case, please enjoy this commentary on several games all across the spectrum.
So I was browsing the LGBT tag on Steam, which isn’t exactly a cohesive category, but an interesting way to get a random selection of games. You get a few big budget games like Life is Strange, and a whole lot of dating simulators and visual novels. And I was thinking, “Where are all the LGBT puzzle games?” I’m being facetious, but I also have in the back of my mind that one game about fitting a poly triad onto a bed (Triad, if you want to look it up). But then I saw this game.
Salad Fields is a queer furry game that combines difficult sokoban puzzles with a surreal setting and story. Visually, it juxtaposes pixel graphics with 3D art that resembles abstract sculpture. Narratively, it’s mostly a bunch of disconnected stream-of-consciousness dialogues. The dialogues are not usually directly related to queerness, but they reflect the cultural values of (I presume) the authors’ personal experiences as queer furries–most every character is a weirdo and knows it, and there’s also an open and relaxed attitude towards sex.
The puzzles revolve around these birds who are into self-bondage, and are inconveniently sitting between you and your goal. To release the birds, you must push blocks to the right locations–very traditional Sokoban. The twist is that you also have limited-use abilities related to the four elements of this universe: pumplins, skulls, televisions, and amoebas.
I didn’t expect much from the puzzles, because my standards are based on “pure” puzzle games that cater exclusively to people who like challenging puzzles, and this is not that. But this was… not bad? The level design is pretty uneven, with some really frustrating ones, and a few unintended skips. But at its best it had strong DROD vibes.
Room to Grow
In this game, you are a cactus, and you push around other cactuses by growing yourself. The main gimmick is that if you bump into a wall, you push yourself in the opposite direction. This suffers from being just a bit too simple, which is not to say that it’s too easy. Rather, when the puzzles become difficult, it’s hard to describe what exactly you did to solve them, since all you did was move one way and then move another. I suppose I prefer puzzle games with a bit more complexity so that the solutions are more satisfying.
It Takes Two
We’re always on the lookout for coop games, and games with this level of quality and budget are practically unheard of.
It Takes Two is a great example of a set-piece game (like what this guy is talking about). That is, it’s composed of a series of short sections which revolve around a new idea or game mechanic, many of which never appear again. So one minute you’re sliding along electric wires, and the next you’re shooting exploding honey. The sheer number and quality of set pieces in this game are truly impressive.
This is a visual novel created by Andrew Hussie, best known for Homestuck, but this is an independent work that goes in a very different direction. The best way to describe it, is that It’s Fight Club, if Fight Club were a satire on revolutionary leftist social media instead of toxic masculinity. Like with Fight Club, it has the problem that on the one hand, it’s brutally critical, and on the other hand, it’s practically a love letter. I have to imagine that this will satisfy absolutely no one, but the reception is surprisingly positive, and I very much like it as well. It’s definitely very unique and intense.
Monster Hunter: Rise
I was a bit exhausted with all these indie games, so I went and bought a AAA game. I once played a Monster Hunter game, like 10 years ago, and I remembered it being extremely opaque. In order to play well, you had to understand all this stuff that was only available in the fanwiki, which probably required someone to look at the source code. Well, apparently in the last 10 years they made the franchise more approachable, so now we can see the great game that fans have been insisting was there this whole time. …Although, I still wouldn’t be shy about looking up fan content.
Sometime between my first attempt at Monster Hunter ten years ago and today, I played one of the Dark Souls games, so now the similarities jump out at me. They’re both challenging and deep combat games, where the key skill is reading enemy animations to anticipate attacks. But I think the difference is that Monster Hunter does not pin its identity on difficulty as an aesthetic. It can be difficult, but is not always or necessarily difficult, and the game is always cheering you along. And the Monster Hunter fandom is friendly and helpful in the way that the Dark Souls fandom always should have been.
This is in the category of games my husband played, and I just watched a bit. It was really obvious that I would hate it.
It’s just one of those games that looks pretty because that’s where they blew the budget, and everything else is mediocre. The graphical detail prevents the game from having a functional visual language. The “puzzles” are tedious and monotonous, with most being solved by identifying the heavy object that you can inexplicably push across slack ropes. Reviewers praised the “character” of the protagonist’s animation, but it’s just a silent magical yarn doll whose motivations are never explained, so what character could it possibly have?
I watched my husband stumble through a set piece where crows would appear at random intervals to kill him. The solution required him to deliberately break immersion by visually distinguishing the game-y crows from the ones just flying in the background. I say this for a lot of games, but I really mean it here: they should have just made a walking sim.