Guacamelee: A Mexican Hero comes to Life

This is a review of the indie video game Guacamelee, based on my own experiences as a limitedly skilled gamer.

This has to be the best game I’ve played all year.  Of course, it is quite different.  Typically I play puzzle-like games… ones that don’t require me to play and deal with adrenaline at the same time 😄  Guacamelee is definitely a great starter action game.  It’s mostly a button-masher, like Castle Crashers, so it doesn’t require much.  However, there is much more to this game that makes it so great.

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First, let’s take a minute to appreciate the music.  I personally feel as though it is hard to screw up Mexican music.  It’s just like Polka music, with a few “ondelay!” or “ayayay!”… I mean… that’s all I hear outside.  But, the game not only captures this real-life element in the music, it also includes an element which captures the environment of the game as well.  The game is light-hearted with funny characters and relationships, and yet it is dark because of the impending doom.  I feel as though the music gets this across in a catchy tune.  I usually mute game music and play my own.  For this game, I didn’t.

Now, let’s appreciate the art.  The more I draw and the more I learn about programming, the more I appreciate all the hard work that goes into a video game.  That SH** is hard.  Especially when you’ve got to consider all the different variables involved in a game.  In other words, I am not as hard of a critic as most.  The game perfectly captured the idea we all have of Mexico: bright and rural.  The art pieces of the towns even capture, more so, the Mexican culture: chickens, mariachi band, farms, beautiful señoritas, rounded señoras, and the namesake guacamole.  I’m not sure what the style of art is… but when I google “Mexican art”, I feel like this is where the game’s style is based.  And that makes sense.

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That brings up the next aspect of the game.  The plot.  Obviously, both music and art capture the concept of Mexican culture.  But without the plot, none of that would be necessary.  The plot is just wonderful.  The setting is in Mexico, which is clear by now.  But the story line involves Mexican myth/legend/lore/etc, that of Calaca.  Wikipedia states:

A calaca  is a figure of a skull or skeleton (usually human) commonly used for decoration during the Mexican Day of the Dead festival. Calacas are generally depicted as joyous rather than mournful figures.  This draws on the Mexican belief that no dead soul likes to be thought of sadly, and that death should be a joyous occasion.

Those of you that don’t know anything about Mexicans should know that the Day of the Dead is a BIG celebration.  You can think of it as the Mexican version of the American Halloween.  The creators of the story have taken a symbol of death in Mexico, and have used it in a more negative manner than in real-life.  That’s okay.  Because a calaca is as much a symbol for death as the Grim Reaper.  If Scrooge can shake in his slippers when the third Ghost of Christmas to Come (who looks an awful lot like the Grim Reaper) shows up, then why can’t Mexicans shake their maracas when a walking, talking Calaca walks into the room.

you-are-not-alone

This is something about the story that I enjoyed.  The fact that the hero of the story must fight Calaca, who is trying to take over both the world of the dead and the land of the living.

I haven’t completed the game yet, because it is just challenging enough that I need to take breaks.  I’ve played up until I actually fight Calaca, but I’ve seen enough of all of this.  I give it a 5 out of 5.  You should go check it out.  Or at least let me know what you thought.

   guac3

I can mash-potatoe, I can do the twist, now tell me baby

Do you like it like this?

This post is a review of my experience with the video game The Bridge.  So if you haven’t played and you would like to.. you should read this because there aren’t any spoilers.  If you haven’t played and you don’t want to.. well, you can still read this 😉

The-Bridge-video-game-logo

The game is primarily a puzzle game.  There are 8 worlds, each with 5 levels.  In each level, you need to get through the exit door in order to complete the stage.  As you progress from one level to the next, new elements are introduced that make the puzzle slightly more difficult than the last.

The basis for the creativity is the M.C. Escher-like art.  It is what drew me to the game, it’s what drew my brother to the game, and I’m sure it’s what drew most players to the game.  M.C. Escher is well-known for his optical illusion pieces.  Most people recognize the pieces where you may follow a path to go in one direction and end in another.

mcescher

M.C. Escher has a ton of wonderful pieces.  He is one of the most famous surrealists of his time.

The game stayed true to the tricky paths.

original

You can move from one end of a path to another through a portal.  The paths also allow you to manipulate “gravity.”  Eventually, these portals will allow you to manipulate the color of your character… this allows you to access black keys and black doors only if you are black, and white keys and white doors only if you are white.  It is up to you to find the perfect path which gives you the proper color at the proper position.

Also, you’ll have to deal with portals and deadly balls.  As well, you can manipulate time so you do not have to begin a level all over again.

TheBridgeScreenshot6

Although you have these factors,  I found the puzzles much easier to solve than the game Braid.

All in all, I rate this game a 9 out of 10.  It was fun and challenging enough to make me want to finish the game.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a story despite the fact that you get to meet Isaac Newton and your character is M.C. Escher himself.

Go on Steam and play the game.  Let me know what you think.

Don’t Judge a Video Game by Its Cover

When I go into a book store, and I don’t have anything specific I’m looking for, I pick up books with the following thoughts in mind: “That’s a cool title, let me check it out” or “I really like that cover.”  This method… it works for me.  I’ve only ever bought one book that I couldn’t get through, and that was Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs.  So by majority rules, DEFINITELY judge a book by its cover.

WHAT do books have to do with video games?

In this post, the connection is the way I choose them.  I was surfing through Steam one day.  I happened across this screenshot,

screenshot

and the caption said the game is completely hand drawn in a ballpoint pen.  I HAD TO SEE IT.

I didn’t know what to expect.  The preview video showed sketches, and it showed colors, and it showed a side-scrolling shooter.  I was hooked.  I didn’t care to look up reviews to see if the game is playable.. in fact, I’ve been known to rock the socks off really crappy games or gaming conditions (I’m playing with a 4 year old integrated graphics card.. ‘nuf said).  So I bought the game.  This game is known as Ballpoint Universe Infinite.

Is the game as prettyful as the screenshot made me believe?  YES.  The game is literally hand drawn in ballpoint pen.  The only part of the game that is questionable hand drawn is the background… but that could have been easily painted.  I played only a minute of the game before I started talking non-stop about it to my Steam friends.

I KNOW NOTHING.

dundun

So the story is basically this:  rational drawings like squares and triangles, known as The Logicians, are trying to come in and destroy irrational drawings (which remind me of surrealistic art).  The main character is obviously the hero of the irrational drawings.  This character is thrown into the space force, and the main levels are side-scrolling shooter missions.  When you aren’t in a level, then you are exploring the world laid out before you so you can fully appreciate the time and effort the creators put into the game.

However, the game isn’t all colors and happy drawings.  While exploring, the controls are horrible.  I’ve been using a mouse.  If you move the mouse a little to the right or left, the characters starts instantly moving in that direction.  This makes standing still almost impossible.  The pause button is in the top right corner of the screen, so you have to be in a position where moving to the right is okay in order to pause the game.  This also makes the jumping (which is necessary for parts of the exploration) quite horrible.  If you make a jump perfectly, but move the mouse a little to readjust your arm… well, you go off a cliff or platform… i.e. you fall to your doom… over and over and over and over and and and.. this is quite frustrating.  And one of the reasons this game takes longer than a day to play.  You can easily fix this issue by using a remote control.  But I personally found a controller makes the shooter levels harder… also because of controlling the main character.

I still haven’t completed the game.  I have this problem… that if I’m going to play a game this easy, I’ve got to 100% it.  So I’m just waiting on certain bugs to be fixed… before I beat the last boss.

Other than these… tiny *sarcasm*… issues,

reality

the game is super fun.  Here’s a decent enough review on the game: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/01/06/wot-i-think-ballpoint-universe-infinite/.  The reviewer did a good job relating how I feel about the game in more depth and video game jargon.