Guess who's baaaaaack?

I like to think that I'm not a picky gamer, I'm just selective.  There are plenty of games that I will play, but there are only a select few games that I'll finish, replay, finish and then replay again.  There are two things that I love about gaming above all.  The first thing is deliciously streamlined gameplay.  The second thing is learning how to play the game without FEELING like you are learning how to play the game.  The first one is pretty self-explanatory.  I don't want to spend five hours learning sub menu after sub menu and having to go through convoluted processes to save my game.  I could forgive older systems because sometimes the technology just wasn't there, but today, we really have no excuse for clunky game construct and poorly designed save-point hell.  Unfortunately, many games suffer from at least one of these things, and they suffer for it.  Simple games, such as iOS puzzlers, tend to be incredibly popular because they are easy to pick up and put down, and the basic game controls can be mastered within a minute or two. In many cases, simplicity here is surprisingly deep, as the limited number of exact controls can lead experts to playing incredibly intense and enjoyable sessions.

But above all of that, the sheer feeling of joy as you explore a well designed game's world and its mechanics is as addictive as any opiate.  My first experience with that feeling of joy was Ocarina of Time, but I also experienced it in Pokemon Red and in many other titles along the way.  A tutorial that doesn't feel like a tutorial, or at the very least, a tutorial that is very short, only shows the basics and then throws you into the actual world immediately to learn for yourself is incredibly important.  It shows the gamer that the game designers don't think you're an idiot, and more importantly, it shows the gamer that the game designers actually made the game to be enjoyable and playable, not tolerable in spite of bad or overly convoluted controls.

Today, I'm going to talk about some games that I am incredibly excited about- one that I've played and am enjoying the hell out of, and the other that I'm looking forward to playing once it is released.  I will also be talking about a soundtrack from a game that I felt blew a breath of fresh air into the puzzle/adventure genre.

So without further ado!

What could be creepier than a horse in a three piece a river?!

If you've been reading about recent game releases, you probably know about Year Walk, a new iOS game that takes legends from Sweden and creates a spooky and atmospheric world for you to explore and find the secrets of the snowy woods.  With a release date of February 21st, this game has only been out a couple of days but is already becoming a fan favorite.  I read some very good things about this game, and wanted to try it out myself.  At only $3.99 for the game itself (the companion guidebook is free), it is definitely worth the price.  First of all, the atmosphere of the game is almost perfect.  It really brought me back to the first Silent Hill game- that feeling of isolation, the only sound a faint wind rustling through the dead trees and the crisp squeak of your feet as you're walking.  

I recommend for the best effect to put on headphones and turn up the volume- there were a couple times where I really started to get creeped out and had to keep looking behind me.  The horror that you experience in the game is subtle, and there are plenty of puzzles, but they don't overdo it.  Gameplay is easy- you're dropped into the world and must start playing immediately.  Because there is no health bar or item inventory, you are forced to walk through the snow until you can figure out where you must go next.  The developers themselves said that part of their hope in designing the game was to create a sense of being lost, of going in circles, and allowing gamers to wander without worrying that objectives must be met immediately.  One of the curses of many modern games is the simple fact that they are packed full of quests, of various busywork and content that detracts from the main story.  Obviously, this too can be interesting, but in my experience, that raw, beautiful feeling you get when you're simply exploring, gaining experience on how to best use the controls and the environment as you traverse the story, it's the purest form of gaming and the most enjoyable.  To put it another way, it's the closest feeling I get to reading an amazing book only I'm in control of the story.

So, if you're looking for a pure, enjoyable, tingling spine sort of gaming experience, I highly recommend this game.


Disgaea D2 makes Oni happy! if only I could get a PS3!

In other news, I am incredibly excited to say that NIS America has finally announced that Disgaea D2 (the continuation of the first Disgaea storyline with Laharl, Etna and Flonne) will be released sometime this fall.  There are no hard and fast dates set, but I imagine that it will probably be released around the time that Christmas displays start popping up in the mall (OMG, wouldn't it be amazing if they had a special PS3 limited edition Disgaea console pack?!  Probably only in Japan, with my luck...*grumble grumble*).  So if you haven't played the first Disgaea game, I highly recommend playing it (the PSP version is my favorite, as it has the harder Etna mode built into it) before this one is released.  As I have said before, Disgaea makes SRPGs intensely enjoyable in a way that most SRPGs sorely lack.  You can play this game forever (seriously, the Item World will keep you busy until the day you die if you really want to go down that rabbit hole), and with endearing characters, beautiful animation and design, and a system that is unmatched in its beauty, this is one game you should not miss!


Which brings me to this...

I have long been a fan of ilomilo, the indie puzzle physics game that was released several years ago on XBOX Arcade.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find a soundtrack....until now!  I am happy to say that I have been able to find an online retailer selling the entire ilomilo soundtrack for only $3.99!   There are over 30 tracks that pump out whimsy and ooze cuteness with every note!  You can listen/buy the music at the following url:

After all, in the words of Sebastian:

"Greetings! The terrific and extraordinary Sebastian thanks you for buying and listening to this marvelistic collection of ilomilo music! The incrediblous LP you're now holding in your very hand holds magical musicbeyond your wildest dreams and I even threw in some bonus tracks just for good measure! Am I not the most incredible and humble man on a flying creature you ever met, hmm? 

Now enjoy this music and dream of Sebastian! Au revoir for now!"


And for a fun bonus- cute girls in your iphone!

NIS America doesn't only make games, sometimes they make cute free apps for your iPhone as well!  This iPhone app is really adorable- you can poke a character and get her to say various things, as well as set alarms and copy over your calendar so a cute anime character can remind you of your appointments.  While the app is a bit redundant considering you have alarm and calendar functions already on your phone, it is pretty cute, and poking around on the screen to get her to look around is fun.  Ostensibly, you CAN buy expansion packs with real money, but for a free app, you get a good amount to do.

You can pick up the Hiperdimension Neptunia app here:


So, dear reader, what have you been playing lately?  A little console, handheld, or even something on your phone?  Inquiring minds want to know!

As always, I look forward to hearing from you!