Ongoing Investigations: Case #215

My roommate recently bought the Humble Double Fine Bundle to get a PC version of Brutal Legend and the upcoming Broken Age game. But that left him with Steam keys for the other three games in the pack that he already bought in an earlier sale. Therefore I wound up with three new games for free. As I already played Psychonauts that gave me two new games to try out. The first game I played was Costume Quest.

On Halloween night two siblings are out trick-or-treating when one of them is kidnapped by evil candy stealing trolls. So it is up to the remaining relative to team up with other children to defeat the monsters, get back the candy, free the kidnapped hostages, and save Halloween in general. Along they way the gang can get new costumes that give them new powers both in and out of battle.

I went out of my way to be ambiguous about the gender of the protagonist. As it turns out the main characters are fraternal twins. So you pick if you want to play as the boy or the girl in the beginning and then spend the game recusing your twin of the opposite gender. As video games begin to make VERY SLOW progress to realizing a little gender equality won’t kill them this is a nice nod to both genders in the mean time. You don’t have to make a Princess Zelda saves Link mod for this game. It lets you choose which gender is heroic from the start.

There are some distinctly unique facets to this game. The fact that it is a turn based RPG was defiently surprising. Seeing a company like Double Fine work on a somewhat passed by genre was a little surprising but not outside of their normal MO. Then again up until recently adventure games were considered an all but dead genre. Now they are hardly FPS in ubiquitousness but nor are they rare crystal unicorns anymore either.

The setting is very fresh feeling. Combat trick-or-treating is not the most overused setting in video games. The costume based combat is fun. You will distinctly go out of your way to get new costumes just to use them in battle. Also they are timing based functions to increase damage and defense which makes combat much more interactive. There various costumes and battle stickers let you change-up your combat style quite a bit as well.

The biggest disadvantage of the game is the initial game is three parts but once you played the first part you pretty much have seen 85% of how the game works. While the puzzles and bosses are different in each section the quests are almost always the same in each part. There is always a bobbing for apples mini-game, you always can trade cards with the other kids, you always have to trick-or-treat at X number of houses to fight the boss which lets the party move onto the next section of the game. The game is short so the little changes between sections is enough to keep to interesting but adding 2 or three more section could have easily turned the game into a slog.

There was also a slightly bell-shaped difficulty curve. The beginning of the game is fairly easy. After that the second section in the mall was fairly tough for a while. I was often losing battles and usually only winning by the skin of my teeth. I later found out that later in the section I got a third-party member. Her addition made everything significantly less difficult after she joins. Other than some bosses I never faced anywhere near that level of difficulty again. I think I was supposed to avoid those initial battles  and the go back and with the added party member and clean house. It was an odd bump in difficulty and I’m not sure it was intentional.

There was also an additional Grubbins on Ice DLC episode. It takes place after the main game and adds an extra act on the game that takes place in the monster world this time. On the plus side it adds some great new costumes and a very different setting than the main game. On the downside the overall mission formula is exactly the same as it was for all three sections in the first game. The story is fun but if you were getting tired of the somewhat repetitive game-play than this section with seem like more of a grind. Also while you can pick the gender of the main character the person kidnapped in this DLC is always female. That sort of takes away a bit of the flair of the original game.

Overall it is a fun little story that you can easily find for dirt cheap. I knocked out the whole game in a single weekend where I also went to Free Comic Book Day and played D&D. So if you want some sort of Disgaea styled 100+ hours experience then your going to be sorely out of luck. But as an innovate return to the turn based RPGs it is a good piece of bite sized entertainment.

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The plot really picks up in Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro vol. 3. Not only do we learn more about Nijuku and Sanju’s creation, we get some surprising turns in Kuro’s search as well. The ending is really surprising in a cliffhanger-like moment which was a welcome piece to this unconventional 4-koma.

Allegedly this series is ongoing but I worry we may never get the answers we are looking for.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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In that same deal I also got the puzzle game Stacking. This is strictly a puzzle game as opposed to RPG with some puzzle elements. Like most Double Fine games it has a very distinct and unique esthetic that helps each game stand out in its given genre. Even when it is doing something you have seen it other games the presentation and delivery makes it feel like you’re getting something special.

In a hyper-Dickensian world humans and animals are actually living Matryoshka dolls with smaller dolls being able to fit into larger dolls.  Charlie Blackmore must save his family when his father disappears and the rest of the family is forced to work off their debt to an evil Baron. Since Charlie is the smallest member of the Blackmore family he must use his power to jump into other dolls to use their powers.

The first things that jumps out at the game is the atmosphere. Everything feels like a silent movie up to the fact that all the text looks like the subtitles used in a silent movie (and is a good artistic excuse not to have voice acting in a modern game.) The fact that all the characters are Oliver Twist characters in extreme parody mode makes the feeling complete.

The interesting thing is that all the major puzzles in the game can be solved different ways (expect for the last boss battle.) Most puzzles have three to five solutions. If you want to infiltrate an exclusive club you might jump into the body of a mechanic to open up a vent to sneak in. At the same time you can also distract the bouncer with a sexy lady letting you waltz in the front when he is preoccupied. The game lets you redo puzzles so you can find all the solutions but you technically only need to solve any puzzle once to get to the end.

On every level there are also some additional side quests you can complete including optional missions, silly tasks, and jumping into all the unique dolls in the level.  It lets you decide how quickly you want to progress through the game. Finding a single solution is usually fairly simple but finding ALL the solutions can be tough.

There is a fairly good built-in hint system that has three levels of clues that I sometimes used when I had NO idea what they wanted me to do for some of the alternate solutions. I never used it to get my initial solution but I had no shame in letting it help me with some of the more esoteric answers. The first clue always helped point me in the direction of the missing angle of attack.

Also like Costume Quest there is an additional DLC adventure about finding the King of the Hobos in the hobo kingdom. Even more than the main story this add-on revels in its oxymoronic charm. They also have zombies and shamanic bums. Just because. The DLC also like Costume Quest basically repeats the formula of the original game but it just feels so much fresher in Stacking. The scope of the puzzles just make it feel less repetitive.

Stacking is just a fun game. It has a wonderful mix of offbeat comedy and clever puzzle solving. It is hardly a long game (especially if you relive some frustration with the hint system) but you will probably love it for the time you spend playing it.

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I finally got around to picking up more Bunny Drop (vols. 6-7).

I really enjoyed 6 as it continued to explore the budding romance between Rin and Kouki with complicated results. We also get a little flashback to some of the years that were skipped over to see Rin and Kouki in middle school.

Volume 7 sees the return of Rin’s mom who I hate, we all hate right? But Rin is a young woman and beginning to notice the relationships everyone has with their mothers and becomes naturally curious about her own. There are some really great moments between her and Daikichi as she worries he will somehow no longer be her father, and reassures her she will always be his child.

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I will finish up my old Takashi Takeuchi doujinshi roundup with Clockwick canaan-vail. This story was originally part of the same anthology that Kinoko Nasu wrote Notes for. Notes gets much more attention as it is the story from which Type-Moon gets it name from. (Also since there are some references to Notes in other Type-Moon projects.) It is often mentioned alongside Notes but more as a footnote than any detailed discussion about the work itself.

Clockwick canaan-vail is a short tale of the last delivery mission of a messenger robot who is going to shut down in a few days as the technology to fix her is not around anymore. It examines her life through the lens of her final effort before she passes on.

Clockwick canaan-vail along side Valkyria and Maid-san wa Majo shows that Takeuchi can write short stories as well as sprawling epics. Nasu on the other hand seems to only write long form stories. Kōri no Hana might be a very self-contained story but having never read it I can’t really say. But it is more insight into the dynamic of the two that makes the unified Type-Moon.

I guess at this point all that is left is to track down a translation of Natural Tomato (if such a beast even exists).

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Dear me, every time I think I’m getting the hang of Fire Emblem for Gameboy Advanced, it smacks me back down to show me my place. But I still think I’m dying less?

I’m at a point where I get to promote a lot of my units in quick succession and it is really satisfying. Some of them are almost too good though mowing enemies down all by themselves and only leaving scraps for the lesser characters!

I’ve been really impressed with the story of the game so far as I creep closer to the end and the confrontation with Nergal. There are so many little stories being woven in as well as relationships. I honestly can’t believe so much game is packed on to this little cartridge.

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2 thoughts on “Ongoing Investigations: Case #215

  1. Justin says:

    “Fire Emblem for the DS”
    “Negrel”

    Narutaki ;_;

    (But ok, aside from that, really glad you’re enjoying Fire Emblem. It took you too long though xD)

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