Thanksgiving Gaming & Such

Had a chance to play some more flash games over the long weekend. Took a break from Tower Defense for bit and did some RPGs, Shooters and RPG Shooters.

The biggies were Ge.ne.sis, Wings of Ge.ne.sis and Starwish.
Two of the three highlights of the weekend were from the same developer taking place in the same universe, though I accidentally played them out of order. Ge.ne.sis and Wings of Ge.ne.sis are a tactical RPG and shooter with RPG-esque elements respectively.

The art in the Ge.ne.sis games are phenomenal, despite being slightly minimalist and streamlined. It’s anime-esque, but with a lot of surreal and chunky, for lack of a better term, elements that help establish the dreamland feel. The “chunky” art element comes into play a bit more with Wings, often-times giving is a paper-doll theatre aesthetic.

The characters are rather flat (haha! paper dolls, right?) but manage to be incredibly charming, especially Sisily who takes the bizarre dreamland she’s ended up in in perpetual pollyannaish stride. Sadly, I got stuck in the first game around 2/3s of the way through.

The first game is a fairly linear tactical rpg. All of the encounters are story-encounters, so there’s no grinding to it, but therein lies the problem. I got to a particularly tough fight where you have to fight against shadow versions of the party who are invulnerable against physical attacks. There are some neat ways around this, but one unlucky rounds, your characters will drop like flies, especially Sisily and Emi, who can be kinda glass cannons against certain damage types. Even if you can take out all of the minions, bosses, who can often one-hit-kill Sisily or Emi can send you into a TPK-death-spiral awfully quick, since Ge.ne.sis lacks healing items & revives.  I’ll just have to be both really smart and really lucky if I’m going to win that fight.

Normally I hate square-based tactics games, because the square is terrible for when it comes to units blocking each other in and screwing up movement and attack ranges, but I’ll forgive Ge.ne.sis for this because it still manages to be a fun experience, even if it is a bit of a puzzle. Sadly, the developer who made the RPG and the Shooter disappeared before completing the true sequel to the Ge.ne.sis RPG. The numerous consumable and equipable items in the shooter would’ve found quite the welcome spot in a tactical RPG featuring the same lovable cast.

Starwish is a bit of a different animal than Wings of Ge.ne.sis, even though it is a shooter with RPG elements. Wings of Ge.ne.sis put the shooting aspect first and foremost, integrating in the rpg and item elements into the gameplay fairly well while letting the story be told more through the evocative art rather than dialogue, which was sparse and (admittedly, since I hadn’t played the RPG first) a bit confusing. Starwish places its story front and center, with a servicable shooter game tacked on to advance the narrative in a way that the player has ‘earned it’.

There’s a lot more depth to Starwish’s cast in terms of their backstories, though they’re still ultimately a troupe of tropers. The tough-but-really-a-sensitive-guy pilot hero. His Childhood-friend doctor lady. The alcoholic panda bear man who raised them as pirates when their parents died. The wise old captain lady. The quirky and possibly deformed sadistic science girl (who I think might also be a Skullgirl). The lecherous bartender with more depth and feeling than he likes to let on. The shy-but-hard-working mechanic girl. The cool quiet strong silent robot ace pilot who’s better than the main character and will maybe even be revealed to be a woman and possible love interest before the game is over. Still, it works in a way that’s enjoyable even though you could swear you’ve seen it all before.

A wide variety of weapons and subweapons help the fairly simple shmup play keep from getting too stale. The game relies more on upping the HP and damage-dealing of the small and unchanging handful of foes you fight, but I have found that there is a giant spike in difficulty come the 3rd sector.

Probably the best part of Starwish is the soundtrack of cool, low-key sci-fi electronica, the type that my band might have started making two albums down the road once we’d worked all of the Throbbing Gristle and early Cabaret Voltaire out of our systems had we kept on going.

I’d hope that a sequel would feature a bit more robust shooter experience to go along with the charming story elements, though I don’t know that one is in the works or ever will be. One thing i find is that a lot of the games on Kongregate that are even a few years old, their creators have, if not vanished, stopped putting out new creations.  There are donation-based unlockables, for example, in the Ge.ne.sis games, but the creator has not been active on his own forum since 2011; another mod has helped a few folks who donated after he disappeared and got them fixed up, but I don’t think I’ll be taking any chances personally, though if he were to reappear with Ge.ne.sis 2 in tow, I’d find a way to try to support him.  Not sure about the creator of Starwish.  I’ll look into him/her when I have some more time.

On a final note, I finally finished Valley of the Horses. Much like Clan of the Cave Bear, I saw the ending coming a mile away. Only Clan of the Cave Bear ended with the epic mystic doom of the Neanderthal tribe and Valley of the Horses ended with a blow job. I’ve given up on Earth’s Children and, since my girlfriend accidentally hid my biography of Tallyrand behind the framed puzzle of an alchemist at work (my house is clearly a Blueholme dungeon!), I started Peace on Earth by Stanislaw Lem, one of those authors I kept hearing about and meant to get around to reading. And wow. I’ll dribble out some inarticulate descriptions of that at a later time, but so far, color me impressed.

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Bad and/or Weird Books I’ve Been Reading

Not long ago, I mentioned how I’d been reading Clan of the Cave Bear and then suddenly the second-hand book market got flooded with hardcover copies of several of Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children books. In the middle of Clan and loving the hell out of it, I picked up several of the sequels for a couple bucks a piece.

Well, I’m about 2/3s of the way through Valley of the Horses, and I’m a little blah about the direction it’s been going. The first half of the book is like two different books that have been spliced together. The first book is the actual sequel to Clan of the Cave Bear in which Ayla finds herself struggling to live in exile, adapting to life along, and winning over awesome animal companions. The second book, whose chapters are interspersed with the first, is rather awkwardly written and fairly explicit caveman erotica. The inevitable conclusion is going to be when Ayla and the new protagonist finally meet up and Ayla’s loneliness and isolation is cured by the new male protagonist’s giant caveman dong.*

I plan on finishing it, because I really hate not finishing books I’m in the middle of, but I don’t know if I’m going to read any of the other sequels.

Now, one book that I don’t think i can finish is Godhunter. It was one of several free books I downloaded from Drive-Thru Fiction months ago. Of the books I downloaded, the one of the only ones I was able to read all the way through was Thieves at Heart. I wanted to like Thieves at Heart, and at times I really did enjoy it, but it took some really bizarre turns, and I doubt I’ll ever get around to finishing the series. It sells itself as a fantasy take on Oliver Twist, only Oliver in this is a half-elf girl and the Fagin character has on his one ward and is not so entirely characterized in terms of his Jewishness. It had some nice slice of life, life of a petty thief and shill stuff that might give you some interesting game ideas, but the later portion of the book gives a pretty strong focus to the protagonist’s puberty, upon the reaching of which she goes into full-on sex-fiend mode. While it’s nowhere near as explicit as Valley of the Horses, it was not particularly pleasant. When I grabbed Godhunter, I didn’t know that it was an “erotic thriller” though despite that, it is generally less explicit than either Thieves at Heart or Valley of the Horses. It is laughably bad, though laughable badness can only carry one so far through a book before the boredom sets in. Godhunter is a tongue-in-cheek-but-not-parody-unless-Poe’s-Law story of a woman who kills gods who are actually ancient-evil-atlanteans-who-have-deceived-mankind-but-not-all-of-them-are-evil-some-want-to-save-mankind-from-the-evil-ones. The protagonist ends up having a rocky relationship with Thor, who, honest-to-god, is written in such a way that I can’t imagine him being anything other than Aquaman from Batman: Brave and the Bold. Seriously, imagine this guy as the male love interest in a smutty romance novel:

Like I said, the “oh, god, this is so bad it’s funny” humor only got me so far, and I don’t think I can force myself to finish this trainwreck. I can totally understand why people are so apprehensive of self-published ebooks, especially free ones. The ones I’ve read so far have been pretty iffy. Except Ava Delany. Thirst was okay, I guess, but I don’t think I’m going to read any of the others in the series.

I think I’m going to turn to non-fiction for a book or two once I’m done with Valley of the Horses. I’ve got a bio of Tallyrand that’s just screaming to be read.

*:like serious, it’s an important character development point how big this dude’s dong is, and he’s kind of mopey that none of the cavewomen he meets on his adventure are able to take all of it.