#WeeklyGameMusic: Men’s Hair Club (LISA: The Painful RPG)

#WeeklyGameMusic: New week, new music.

So, quick note: I’m going to be holding off on posting #WeeklyGameMusic, as I’m now hard at work on finishing Not a Clone. So today is a special treat: Men’s Hair Club by Widdly 2 Diddly is a bizarre chiptune composition that sounds awfully like dubstep. Sounds weird? Oh, man, you’ve seen nothing, yet! The game the composition is for, LISA: The Painful RPG, is an incredibly surreal, Earthbound-inspired adventure that has frequent mood changes, absurd scenarios, and a very, very disturbing set of unavoidable situations.

LISA: The Painful RPG stars Brad, a gruff, middle-aged man adept in martial arts, and with a broken past. One day, Brad wakes up from his pain-killing drug trip (aptly named “joy”) to suddenly find a crying baby girl. Claiming it’s his “second chance,” Brad brings the girl back home with his friends and raises her in secret. Did I also mention that Brad lives in a post-apocalyptic world where all women has died? Right when his adoptive daughter, Buddy, grows to her tweens, a breakout occurs, with Buddy kidnapped and one of his friend slaughtered. Angered, Brad immediately ventures out to find who kidnapped Buddy, while a confused tipster Terry follows along.

There’s a good reason why “Painful RPG” is in the title of LISA: The Painful RPG. The game starts off as a side-scrolling adventure, where Brad can jump up or down cliffs. Unlike most platformers, Brad can not initially jump across gaps; the ability is later unlocked with an item. Walking into other grown men or monstrous abominations will often initiate a turn-based RPG battle, where Brad can use his martial arts via WASD while Terry…does something. Unpleasant decision-making is this game’s main jam, though, as Brad is frequently forced into making some terrifying choices. Would you sacrifice an arm to keep a vital party member alive? Would you go through a Russian Roulette just to get a powerful ally? The world Brad lives in is vast, darkly funny, and absolutely brutal.

LISA: The Painful RPGis available on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

#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: Sunny Side Up (Toki Tori 2+)

#WeeklyGameMusic: New week, new music.

Wait, a simple, jolly music in this week’s #WeeklyGameMusic? What is this madness!? Yup, it’s time to enjoy an easy-on-the-ears music called Sunny Side Up, composed by SonicPicnic and featuring the Royal Eggbert Choir. I’m glad relaxing tunes and cute graphics define Toki Tori 2+‘s presentation, because the game’s puzzles are incredibly difficult. Gah! You thought those later levels in Candy Crush Saga are hard? You’ve seen nothing.

Toki Tori 2+ tells a simple tale: dark, evil matter encompasses the world, and you have to save your flightless friends and bring back peace to the world. What, were you expecting something more than that? Hey, I like this simple story structure, and how the game actually narrates through gameplay instead of giving you huge chunks of text. Anyway, Toki Tori 2+ uses a simple platformer-like control scheme: arrow keys to move, a button to sing, and another to stomp. The latter two are critical for solving puzzles, as they have various effects in the environment. Singing for example, attracts platform crabs, while stomping repels them. Using this simple system, Tori has to navigate through complex platformer puzzle without jumping once. And it’s insanely good at making your head scramble. I highly recommend it for puzzle lovers.

Toki Tori 2+ was originally released on the Wii U. It is also available on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux.

#WeeklyGameMusic: Gone Home (Journey’s End) (Dust: An Elysian Tail)

#WeeklyGameMusic: New week, new music.

Oh man! I’ve been dying to tell about Dust: An Elsyian Tail, a game made by a single Korean-American. But first, the music: from Hyperduck Studios comes a touching credits music called Gone Home (Journey’s End). Can you hear all that rain pouring from your eyes?

The game’s story starts with Dust waking up in a forest, and having a terrible case of amnesia. For one, there’s a floating, talking sword flying towards him, vaguely informing him the journey he must overcome. For another, there’s a squeaking nimbat following the sword, claiming it’s hers. And lastly, they’re surrounded by monsters. You know, a typical video game hero’s morning.

As it turns out, the game has a lot to give. For one, the game has very tight combat and platforming controls. Outside of the quick one-two-three combos, Ahrah, the talking sword, can also pull out the dust storm that sucks everything in and hit them multiple times. Fidget, the flying nimbat herself can cast magic, which combined with the dust storm creates devastating attacks. Outside of combat, the map is organized in a Metroidvania fashion. Unlocking new skills also allows Dust to traverse places he hasn’t before. And the story of Dust is surprisingly pure, which despite having only a few twists, is endearing on its own.

Dust: An Elsyian Tail was originally released as a downloadable on Xbox 360. It is currently available on Playstartion 4 as a downloadable, and Steam for PC, Mac and Linux.