#WeeklyGameMusic: Liberation (La Muerte de Papo) (Papo & Yo)

#WeeklyGameMusic: New week, new music.

This week’s music comes from a touching and tragic game called Papo & Yo.  Despite it’s fantastical (or more correctly, magical realism) settings, the puzzle platformer touches what it’s like to live under parental abuse.  It’s quite fitting, then, that the credits music for this game, Liberation (La Muerte de Papo) by Brian D’Oliveira, depicts a sad, hollow echo of what feels like a child trying to connect with his/her parent, but the feeling isn’t reciprocated.

Papo & Yo starts with a small, South American boy named Quico hiding from what appears to be a monster (only the shadow is revealed).  While being cramped inside an air duct, a magical chalk drawing of a portal appears near Quico.  As if entranced, our hero walks through the portal, teleporting him to what looks like a bright, colorful outdoors of a slum neighborhood.  Immediately taunted by a girl about the same age as Quico, he ventures out in the new universe he’ve stumbled upon filled with incredible art and imagination.

As a 3D puzzle-platformer, Papo & Yo has a lot of interactive chalk drawings acting as switches, gears, or pulleys to affect the surroundings.  Playing around with these drawings can cause various effects, including twisting the ground to turn into walls, or making buildings fly like birds to create platforms.  Despite this creative core, however, the most vital game element is the uneasy relation the player has with a monster.  Helpful but lazy, the monster can help push heavy objects or provide his bouncy belly as a way to jump towards higher platforms.  Unfortunately, said monster also has a horrible addiction to frogs, causing it to become angry and immediately attack poor Quico.  The puzzles in the game regularly has the player guiding the monster to vital puzzle elements while it’s in a docile state, and avoiding it as soon as frogs hops in at the most inopportune times.

Papo & Yo was originally developed as a downloadable title for Playstation 3.  It is now available on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux.

#WeeklyGameMusic: Sync (Fez)

#WeeklyGameMusic: New week, new music.

Do you feel the beat? Yes, that one. Careful, don’t skip that one. You don’t want to fall off of those disappearing platforms! Great, now keep the rhythm. Now we’re all in Sync, a piece by Disasterpeace from the mind-bending game, Fez.

Fez is a fairly simple puzzle-platformer with a simple story. Gomez, the lead character, lives a rather sheltered but still peaceful village whose knowledge and experience ends in 2D. Yet as a chosen one, Gomez obtains a magical fez from the village elder that allows him to travel in semi-3D. Abusing this power, however, causes the one thing that keeps the world together to break apart, and defrag across different worlds. It also crashes the game. Stuck in a progressively degrading world, it’s up to Gomez to fix his mistake.

The gameplay of Fez, as mentioned earlier, is about traveling in a bizarrely 3D way. More accurately, the fez allows Gomez to rotate the world on its vertical axis by 90 degrees. But since Gomez operates in 2D physics, the depth of the level collapses after every rotation, allowing him to make platforms align properly. While most puzzles rely on understanding how this physics system works, another set of puzzles rely on deciphering codes. When one finds a Fez code, they can input the button combination the code represents, unlocking some fun collectables. Overall, it’s a delightfully colorful platformer that isn’t very punishing, but has some nasty difficult codes to decipher.

Fez was originally released for Xbox 360 as a downloadable. It is now available for Playstation 3 & 4, and on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

#WeeklyGameMusic: Temple of Rain (Guacamelee!)

#WeeklyGameMusic: New week, new music.

This week’s music, Temple of Rain, is mucho Mexican composition by Rom Di Prisco. It’s a bueno piece that makes you excitado for the majesty that is temple número uno. ¿I mean, what were you expecting, señor luchador? ¡This! ¡is! ¡The pun-filled! ¡Guacamelee!

Guacamelee! is a metroidvania beat ’em up starring lone farmer Juan Aguacate in a pursuit to save El Presidente’s Daughter (the game reveals her name only after completing it; I’m unfortunately not that bueno). He also gets killed by the skeleton Carlos Calaca within the first cinco minutos. ¡Ay! Fortunately for Juan, he is sent to the parallel universe where the dead lives, and finds a legendario luchador mask that lets him travel between the living and the dead. With his newfound powers, he heads straight towards Carlos’ base to beat him once and for all. But first, he needs to break that Choozo statue. ¡It’s importante!

Unlike the common metroidvania tropes, Juan doesn’t use weapons to fight against enemies. Like a true luchador, he fights with fists and kicks, leading to some surprisingly deep combat system. Each power he gains can be used not only to smack harder on his enemies, but can also increase his combo and reach to higher and/or farther ledges. A huge amount of focus in the game is in teeth-gritting hard platforming and gauntlets, and boy is it satisfying to get through this game’s many challenges. Combined with lots of universe-hopping, genuinely useful dodges, and a grapple & throw move that adds more to both puzzles and combat, and we have a winner.

Guacamelee! was originally developed as a downloadable for Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita. It is also available of Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Wii U, and Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux.

#WeeklyGameMusic: Life is Beautiful (Deadly Premonition)

#WeeklyGameMusic: New week, new music.

This week’s music is…the creepiest…most haunting…and downright scary music track in horror games’ histor- AH HA HA HA! No, sorry, I can’t do this. I mean, this horror game, Deadly Premonition is famous for being so bad, it’s good. So of course this week’s music is the one that hilariously breaks this game’s serious mood, Life is Beautiful by Riyou Kinugasa, Takuya Kobayashi and Hiromi Mizutani.

Deadly Premonition should hit the Twin Peaks fans’ funny bone with its story. Greenvale is currently housing the mysterious serial killer, the Raincoat Killer. His first victim, Anna Graham, was found pinned into a tree in a T-pose, with her stomach cut open. Naturally, a crime so deliberate would attract FBI agent Francis “York” Morgan attention, as he investigates various clues at the crime scene to profile what has happened. But first, York needs to pass through the red room. Because Twin Peaks.

Despite being labeled a horror game, Deadly Premonition is mainly an open world game with lots of side quests. It shares a lot in common with Majora’s Mask in that each citizens has their own schedule, and taking on side quests involves knowing when, where, and who to talk to. Honestly, these open-world portions are where the game shines the brightest, with distinct characters, funny dialog, and lots of bugs to make fun of. Action sequences are clearly indicated when the world suddenly darkens with a purple haze, doors no longer lead to the same place, and violent “shadows” (zombie-like creatures whose dialog often flip-flops between whether they want to die or not) start appearing. In this mode, weapons are utilized similar to Resident Evil 4, where any long-range weapons requires stopping in-place and aiming. In comparison to the open world portion, these parts are frequently panned.

Deadly Premonition was originally developed on the Xbox 360. The improved versions are available on Playstation 3 and PC via Steam.

#WeeklyGameMusic: Ryoshima Coast (Okami)

#WeeklyGameMusic: New week, new music.

This time, we visit ancient Japan from this brilliant piece from Okami. Make way for the epic music, Ryoshima Coast by Hiroshi Yamaguchi! It’s a wonderful composition most fitting for a game that re-tells numerous Japanese fairy tales.

Okami starts with feudal Nippon (“Japan” in Japanese) getting swarmed by monsters and other evil spirits. With the country in peril, the guardians summon the sun goddess, Amaterasu, to rid of all evil. The problem? She’s a lazy wolf, and since the citizens of Nippon doesn’t have faith in their gods, she’s also very weak. Alas, it’s up to (?) the one-inch-tall Issun to wake her up, and encourage her to beat up monster to save the day!

Okami is an action-adventure game, frequently compared to the Legend of Zelda series, that not only manages to stand on its own, but even excel beyond its original inspiration. The game features tight combat system and dungeons with puzzles that even left a Zelda veteran like myself scratching his head. Special to this game is the brush power-ups: “items” are spawned by literally drawing them into the world. Not only does this make puzzle quick to resolve once a solution is found, it also makes the said powers convenient for use on combat. A lot of experimentation is possible in this vast, oriental fairy-tale world.

Okami was originally developed for the Playstation 2. It was also ported on the Wii, complete with wand-based drawing controls. Lastly, a HD remix is downloadable on the Playstation 3.

Weekly Game Music: Glasgow Mega-Snake (Spec Ops: The Line)

New week, new music.  Ready for another melancholic music?  Here’s Glasgow Mega-Snake by the Scottish rock bad, Mogwai.  While it may initially sound like a generic rock music, the composition very quickly wades into an amazing mixture of sadness and rage.  A fitting music to this unexpectedly excellent brown shooter, Spec Ops: The Line.

Spec Ops: The Line is most famous for its Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad) inspired narrative: recon team Captain Martin Walker, Lieutenant Alphonse Adams, and Sergeant John Lugo receives a distress call from Colonel John Konrad, indicating that “evacuation of Dubai ended in complete failure.”  Considering Dubai was struck by the worst dust storm 6 months prior, this worries Captain Walker, and decides with his 3-man team to investigate on the matter.  Their mission?  Find any survivors, then message the US army for a safe evacuation.

If by looking at the concept art below, you thought that Spec Ops: The Line is a generic third-person shooter, well, you’d be right.  However, Spec Ops is more than that: it’s a devastating deconstruction of brown shooter themselves.  Intentionally hypocritical, the game rewards the player for acts that progressively gets worse and worse.  And considering the game is mostly linear, there’s little that the player can do, other than moan from something they have done.  As each of the characters get more shaken and delusional, the game does an excellent job reminding us what Post-Traumatic Disorder feels like.

Spec Ops: The Line was released on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC in 2012.