Three Games That The Agent Is Playing Now: Chrono.gg Edition

Well, I’ve been keeping busy these last few day with Halloween preparations and new management at work (we actually have a meeting about it today, so I have to make this quick), so I’m just going to put out one of my short and simple lists today because I’m not a fan of not having anything for you all on Thursdays.

So, I’m going to talk about the games that I’ve been playing lately… but with a twist. The catch is that all of these games were obtained through Chrono.gg.

For those that have not yet heard, Chrono.gg is probably one of the most useful resources a PC gamer and Steam user has at their disposal. Every day at noon (Eastern Standard Time), they have a new flash sale with one game marked down at a ridiculously low price – often 50-90 percent off the original price.

Even if there isn’t a game on sale that day that you’re interested in, it’s still worth logging in to check because you get daily coin rewards that you can use to get other games FOR FREE. These games are sold in limited quantities and new games get added every two weeks. So, there’s always a reason to show up every day.

So, today, I’m going to give this amazing service some free publicity by showcasing the games that I got through them that I haven’t been able to put down.

Loot Hound

Some of the most consistently enjoyable games I find on Chrono.gg are simple time wasters that are useful for just chilling out after getting home from work. Hence why I keep coming back to Loot Hound.

You play as an enthusiastic treasure hunter/dog lover in search of random bobbles and bric-a-brac. You have to train your three dogs – Marley (who specializes in digging through rocky terrain), Wifi (who’s small enough to fit into small hidey-holes) and Mr. Anderson (who can scare off stubborn wild animals in your way) – to be the best loot hounds they can be while dodging park security.

There’s not much in the way of strategy; the answer to any problem often boils down to use the right dog for the task and make sure they’re trained up properly to overcome obstacles. But, I can appreciate a game with a simple premise if it’s done right. And this game is just so bright and cheery with a light-hearted sense of humor (at one point, your dog will dig a steak out of the dirt and the game will call it “GROUND Beef”) that it’s quickly becoming my go-to title for unwinding at the end of the day.

Odallus: The Dark Call

Shifting away from bright and cheerful for just a second, let’s have some fun with old school, dark gothic fantasy.

Odallus: The Dark Call is a lot of things. It combines the level progression of Ghouls & Ghosts, the branching paths of Demon’s Crest and the overall visual aesthetic and many combat mechanics from classic Castlevania games. You’d think that would be a case of the game trying to do too much at once, but if you can ignore the clumsy writing and dialog, it plays extraordinarily well and handles exactly like you would expect a retro throwback game would.

By the way, I didn’t pick those three game comparisons at random; the developers REALLY want you to know that they were inspired by those games in particular. In addition to ripping the overworld map directly from Ghouls & Ghosts, they recycle a lot of art assets from various Castlevania games and modeled quite a few bosses from baddies in Demon’s Crest. What’s more, when I bought this from Chrono.gg, it came bundled with three DLC skin packs – the Vampire Hunter, the Royal Knight and the Red Gargoyle.

Creative bankruptcy aside, this is still a fun play and was a steal at only two dollars.

Plasma Puncher

Ending back on the cute and silly, I’ve heard of Endless Runners, but this may be the first case I’ve heard of an ‘Endless Beat ’em Up.’

Plasma Puncher puts you in the role of a lone white blood cell fighting off a seemingly endless army of viral infectors. It’s your duty to fisticuffs every one of them into oblivion and save the body you call home.

As you progress, you’ll have to upgrade your little badass antibody, learn how to use various power ups to maximum potential, and quickly acclimate to new enemies with every incoming wave that alters their strategy. It’s pick-up-and-play style of game that still provides a fair amount of challenge.

If you seek out any of these games today, this would be the one I’d recommend the most.

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Three Things We Were Told Are Bad But Are Good If Used Properly (and How To Do Them Wrong)

“Sola dosis facit venenum.” The dose makes the poison.

This is the most basic principle of the study of Toxicology. It’s the simple fact that anything can be made lethal or even just detrimental by misusing or abusing it.

So why do so many people still insist that some things are just plainly bad for you?

I hate the idea of being told that something has no practical benefit and I often check out as soon as someone that thinks that way speaks. To me, it’s an indicator of narrow-minded and unquestioning thinking that I have no respect for.

So today, let’s discuss the things that we are told will put us in an early grave that, in reality, can be beneficial as long as you aren’t stupid about using them.

Marijuana

Eh, I would have put the snakes and the staff head around and on top of the center leaf, but the point is clearly made. Source: Weedist

Eh, I would have put the snakes and the staff head around and on top of the center leaf, but the point is clearly made.
Source: Weedist

As always let’s get the big one out of the way from the get-go.

EVERYBODY knows that there is a long list of medical uses for marijuana. What’s more, the LD50 (the dosage of a substance required to cause death in 50 percent of cases) of THC is so astronomically high as to be practically impossible; especially when you compare it to its effective dosages and even MORE especially when you compare it to the LD50 of alcohol and tobacco.

That said, you CAN get stupid with the stuff. People whose brains are still developing (read: under 18) are at risk for a loss of mental faculties and, needless to say, you shouldn’t be driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence. But seeing as those problems tend to drop off after legalization, the problem seems self-correcting. Still, it’s best to bake responsibly.

Caffeine

As someone who works overnight shifts for a living, I practically live on coffee. So all that caffeine can’t be good for me, right?

Well, much like our friend weed above, the ratio of caffeine’s effective dose and its LD50 are massive. You would need to drink 80 to 100 cups of coffee in one sitting to have a 50/50 shot at getting penciled in for a visit from Azrael.

That said, it’s not impossible. Reported deaths from caffeine overdoses are usually from those abusing pep pills or mainlining pure caffeine. And that’s to say nothing of the risks of Stimulant Psychosis that comes with abuse; especially for those who already suffer Psychosis through conditions like Schizophrenia.

But, for most normal and healthy humans, even the withdrawal symptoms are more like minor hindrances than serious issues. Just make sure that you stick to the coffee and energy drinks for your buzz.

Video Games

Can we start calling IQ points 'Brain Levels?

Can we start calling IQ points ‘Brain Levels?” I feel that would make my life more fun.
Source: LifeHacker

Not a drug, I know. But it’s still an issue… Why it’s still an issue I’ll never know.

All my life I was told that Video Games were bad for me and that I was going to grow up to be a mentally warped, violent freak for playing them.

But here’s the thing, while games can increase aggressive tendencies (as most competitive activities do), evidence shows the rate of violent crime DROPS with new major releases as a result of providing a time waster for those destructive desires. Also, as I mentioned last week, gaming provides useful mental exercise for those looking to keep their minds sharp.

But on the subject of exercise, let’s not forget that gaming is a largely sedentary hobby. So, it may behoove you to drop the controller once an hour to go on a 10-minute walk. Also, maybe we should replace the chips and energy drinks we often nurse with roasted nuts and iced tea.

Post-Holiday Gaming Spree (or “What’s The Agent Playing Now?”)

It’s not often that I get to talk about games here at The Archive anymore and that’s a shame seeing as how they were my first passion. Unfortunately, finances prevent me from splurging on digital entertainment.

The good news is that the influx of cash gifts over Christmas combined with Steam’s penchant for RIDICULOUSLY generous discounts over the holidays means that I get to talk about the ones that I’m really enjoying now. To that end, please enjoy these three recommendations for your gaming pleasure.

Chroma Squad

This was the odd duck gift that I got from a friend with a long history of loving the Real-Time Strategy and Tactical RPG genres. I never considered myself a fan of them since I’ve always preferred faster paced, action-oriented games that made me feel like I was directly in the action rather than an invisible hand directing events. That said, if any game has a chance of changing that opinion, It would be Chroma Squad.

Centering around a group of actors on a Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers parody who get fed up with their d-bag director and start their own indie studio, you play the role of their new director and are charged with casting actors, making props, and building your set (all of which effect in-game stats) as you attempt to play to the audience to build a fanbase (which, in turn, provides you with a bigger budget for better gear) and build the best tokusatsu show ever.

Basically, it’s Fire Emblem by way of a business management simulator; an odd combination that strangely works. The fact that I was managing a show not only made me think harder about my choices but also helped to immerse me in the story since I wasn’t just some never-spoken-of pseudo-god playing with the lives of the cast. You can even customize the team name, uniforms, and catchphrases to create the show you wished you could make while watching stuff like Kamen Rider.

Bear Simulator

Okay, I know the ‘simulator’ genre is a total joke. Like, LITERALLY a joke; they’re made to be played for a few hours, be laughed at like a bad movie night, and swiftly forgotten. But Bear Simulator just feels like something more.

Like most games of its ilk (Goat Simulator comes to mind almost instantly), Bear Simulator revolves around you taking control of a normal creature in less than normal situations. But unlike its goat-based predecessor which largely required you to make your own fun from it, there is an over-arching mystery to be solved in Bear Simulator that helps to keep you engrossed in the action and encourages you to re-explore your world when you’ve polished your ursine skills.

Also, combining the Canada Hat in the above trailer with the fake mustache you find later totally makes you look like a gentlemanly tundra explorer.

Neurovoider

At this point, if you’ve been following me for a while, you should know that I love The Binding of Isaac and other procedurally generated dungeon crawlers. But if any game is going to knock Isaac off its lofty throne, it’s Neurovoider.

A sci-fi-based twin-stick shooter where you essentially play as a brain in a jar, Neurovoider is far more cerebral (no pun intended) than Isaac by the virtue of its item management system. Where you could basically pick up nearly any item in Isaac with little or no consequences, Neurovoider forces you to choose what to keep, scrap, and upgrade forcing you to make tactical decisions based on your style of gameplay.

It also addresses one of the biggest issues I have with Isaac – its lack of enjoyable and unintrusive multiplayer – by including a four-player co-op mode. Combine that with Dan Terminus’ intense Dark Synth soundtrack and you have what’s possibly one of my favorite games of the last five years.

The Agent Reviews A Game: Teddy Terror

Can you BEAR the horrors? Source: teddyterror.com

Can you BEAR the horrors ahead?
Source: teddyterror.com

Wow, it’s actually been a while since I gave my feelings on a game I’ve played. In my defense, the budget has been tight lately and gaming is one of those luxuries I’ve had to forgo.

However, I found this early access game on Steam for dirt cheap. And with Halloween coming up fast, I felt a game about the nightmares of a small child and his attempts to literally conquer his fears was worth looking into.

Now, if my obsession with The Binding of Issac should teach you anything, it’s that I have a soft spot for the Rogue-Lite genre. I can appreciate a game that plays differently every time you pick it up. But if it’s originality we’re talking about, Teddy Terror has one of the most stand-out ideas I’ve seen in a Rogue-Lite.

Most of the games in this genre are top-down dungeon crawlers where you kick in the door, beat up the baddies, nab their loot and repeat. However, Teddy Terror mixes this up with one major change; you have no weapon.

The only thing you have to defend yourself with at the start of the game is your precious teddy bear. Teddy acts as a boomerang that can temporarily slow down the monsters but can’t damage them; a mechanic that will be familiar to my fellow old school Legend of Zelda players. Instead, you’ll have to guide the creepy crawlies into environmental hazards (which are just are dangerous to you, of course) and traps that Teddy can activate by throwing him into them. Clear out all the monsters and you’ll move to the next floor. If you’re lucky, you may even land in a treasure room where you have a chance at scoring some new gear.

This simple change in gameplay from Action RPG to Puzzle Strategy alters the entire feel of the game; you actually have to think your actions through and plan them carefully while dodging the ugly mother-hubbard’s chasing you. In other words, it recreates a horror aesthetic without most of the tropes of horror games by making you feel powerless and forcing you to Home Alone your way to safety.

That said, the game’s not without glaring issues. While the normal difficulty can be breezed through, there’s a massive spike in higher difficulties by virtue of the bosses regenerating their health over time – meaning that the game centered around careful timing and patience is now a speed run.

The game also features unlockable characters, but they don’t seem to play any differently. So unless you REALLY want to roleplay as YouTube gamer H2O Delerious (and I do), There’s no real reason to unlock them.

There’s also a recently added ‘Invasion’ mode where you fight waves of baddies and buy your stats bonuses instead of finding items, but it got very repetitive very quickly and didn’t hold my attention long.

That said, the game is still in the development stage (early access, remember?), so these issues could very likely be ironed out by the time the full game is completed. What’s more, even with its warts, I still had fun with it. I’d normally recommend waiting until development is finished and seeing how they change things before committing to purchase like this, but at five dollars, I can’t really complain about this cheap and cheerful romp through a child’s nocturnal hell-scape.

Why Undyne and Dr. Alphys Are The Best LGBT Couple In Gaming Today

If the game were less politically correct, I suspect Sans would have made jokes about Alphys “sleeping with the fishes.”
Source: tomatomagica.tumblr.com

So, per the suggestion of many reviews, friends, and YouTube Gamers, I finally got my hands on Undertale and I’m enjoying the trip. It’s easy to see why it’s indie gaming gold; it’s a story of hope and determination where every choice you make has weight and there’s no wrong way to play it. You can even go through the whole thing without raising your weapon once and relying on judicious diplomacy and kind gestures if you’re a dedicated nice guy.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a memorable game without some emotional moments. Moments that I’d like to talk about at great length, but if it’s one thing that all the hype around Undertale has taught us, it’s that it’s best experienced coming in fresh. So, I’m only going to spoil ONE aspect of ONE of the story’s paths in order to talk about the game’s most adorable couple.

A good chunk of the story is dedicated to two characters – Undyne; the fish-like head of the Royal Guard who pursues you initially, and Dr. Alphys; a reptilian scientist studying the very nature of what the game refers to as SOULs.

As the game progress (provided you don’t stray from the pacifistic route and kill either of them, you monster), you learn that the two are very close friends and that Alphys has deep affections for Undyne that she fears are unrequited. However, play your cards right, and you’ll see these two finally admit their love for each other and go on their first date.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t any meaningful LGBT characters in gaming; it’s just that they don’t seem to carry as much gravitas. Transgender characters like Birdo and Vivian exist in the Mario games but offer very little other than simply acknowledging they exist. And if they do offer something more, it’s often lost in western translation.

I once dedicated nearly a third of an article to gay and bisexual characters in Borderlands 2, but while they may have been intentionally written that way, there’s the nagging feeling that such commentary on LGBT rights might have only come about due to time and budget constraints preventing the unique character interactions based on gender.

Undyne and Alphys don’t have such concerns surrounding them. They are a legit lesbian couple and their relationship is treated just like any other romance.

There are several other aspects that make this relationship beautiful. For one, it’s easy to forget that neither of these two fit the standard definitions of beauty. Undyne is an intimidating, muscular, almost amazonian woman with a face like Lord Voldemort had sex with a disgruntled great white shark. Meanwhile, Alphys is short, timid, overweight, and suffers from a noticeable overbite. This, along with their monster-like qualities, makes it much harder to sexualize their relationship (not that the internet hasn’t tried) and brings their romance to the forefront.

What’s more, there’s a darker story that fuels their passion. Alphys’ SOUL experiments have led to the unintentional creation of many nasty characters in the game leaving her filled with guilt. It’s even suggested that she might be suicidally depressed by her failures. You quickly start to realize that someone like Undyne gives her something to keep working for and saves her from her spirit-crushing sadness; She’s LITERALLY her knight in shining armor.

Undyne and Alphys have one of, if not the most beautiful love story in gaming history and their existence is a sign that the medium is still moving forward. Here’s hoping for a sequel where they hand out the wedding invites.

The Agent’s #UnpopularMusicOpinionHour Recap

Last Friday, my followers on Twitter likely saw a barrage of posts with the trending hashtag #UnpopularMusicOpinionHour which I actually posted non-stop for an ACTUAL hour (an impressive feat considering that I don’t like being glued to Twitter for very long).

But, the problem with Twitter is that it’s hard to convey an opinion with just 140 characters. So, this week, I’m going to elaborate on just a few of those posts to better get my point across.

“Some of the best music ever came from Super Nintendo Games.”

Untitled-1

I was born just as gaming was pulling itself out of the Stygian abyss of the North American gaming crash and started gaming when I was four. Back then games were much simpler in terms of visuals, gameplay, and story. So, developers had to rely on other stimuli to build an environment that left an impression on the player.

Music, to me, is one of those ways that’s often overlooked. Can you honestly say you’d feel the same hurried dread in Super Castlevania 4 without “Dance of the Holy Man” in the background or the blood-boiling hype of Killer Instinct without its iconic theme?

To be fair, games have always been home to memorable music and still come out with great soundtracks to this day. But, this era of games will always hold a special spot in my brain space.

“Getting kinda sick of Katy Perry, actually.”

Untitled-2

Believe it or not, there was a mythical time when I didn’t mind Katy Perry. At first, she seemed like just another well-intended, but heavily misguided female empowerment icon (the irony is that most women who TRY to be feminist icons are doing a huge disservice to womankind by trying too hard) that I could easily ignore.

But, as time goes by, she’s become completely obnoxious. She flips frantically between over-polished, you-go-girl anthems like “Roar” to sleazy, sex-as-power, pop dreck a la “Birthday.” As a result, both come off as uninformed at best and disingenuous at worst.

My point is that Katy needs to pick an angle and stick with it.

“I can’t stand the sound of Robert Plant’s voice.”

Untitled-3

I actually caught some hate from friends for this in the past. So let’s get something straight; I actually like Led Zeppelin. It’s just lead vocalist Robert Plant I can’t stand.

It always bugged me how whiny his voice was. I’d be thoroughly enjoying “Black Dog” right up until Plant’s dog whistle voice (heh… see what I did there?) pulls me out of the moment.

I think the only time that I wasn’t thrown out of the moment by Plant was the classic “Kashmir.” I’d also put “Immigrant Song” on that list, but I feel Karen O caught the feel better.

“Most of the people we call ‘One-Hit Wonders’ deserve more credit.”

Untitled-4

I actually delved into this before, but it begs to be repeated – so-called “One-Hit Wonders” tend to keep doing good work in music long after their most well-known hit. And I’m not just talking about long-forgotten tracks like last time. Most do some amazing stuff behind the scenes.

For example, do you love game soundtracks as much as I do? Then you might be surprised to know that Kurt Harland, the composer for the amazing Legacy of Kain series of games, is also the lead vocalist for Information Society. Do you love Adele? Then you should thank Dan Wilson of Semisonic for writing and producing her biggest hit.

Damn, now I just want to write another one-hit wonder article. Guess THAT’S going on the list.

4 Warner Bros. Properties That I Want To See As Mortal Kombat DLC Characters

One of the nice things about being in my new apartment is the fact that I’ve been more active with my hobbies thanks to kicking the depression linked to my previous setting. Among those hobbies are, of course, video games and movies.

Last Month, the folks at Netherrealm Studios kept the proud tradition of adding new DLC Characters to the Mortal Kombat franchise from the available list of Warner Bros. Movies and properties by giving us the option to play as The Predator in Mortal Kombat X. And while he makes a nice fit, I can’t help but feel some other opportunities could be found with a little digging.

Basically, I’m saying that I won’t be happy until I can push Quan Chi’s head down into his colon while playing as…

Leatherface

Sure, we already have a silent, masked killer on the roster. But HE doesn’t have a chainsaw.
Source: Super Villain Wiki

You know, for being an iconic horror film, I’ve heard a lot of hate TowardsThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I imagine that’s mostly the hyper conservative crowd that can’t handle a horror film that’s ACTUALLY horrifying talking.

Regardless, the movie’s iconic killer Leatherface would be an obvious fit. The property is now owned Warner Bros., he’s a classic horror villain well known for brutally dispatching his victims, and he would be easily recognizable. Just code him in the next DLC, hand him a chainsaw and a meat mallet, and have him go to town.

And while we’re getting the obvious choices out of the way…

The Xenomorph

Bonus points if they have the stones to use the queen.
Source: Alien Species Wiki

 

Look, we have Predator, naturally Alien can’t be too far behind.

There’s actually a good reason why I want The Xenomorph as a playable character though; the lack of creative, inhuman designs in recent Mortal Kombat games.

I remember seeing characters like Goro, Kintaro, and Motaro for the first time and having my mind blown. These days, they seem to be playing it safe in terms of design. D’vorah is still surprisingly humanoid for a bug woman and even Milleena has been toned down a bit from her previous appearance. We could use a wholly inhuman monster in the roster.

Still, perhaps these last two are too obvious. There are more surprising options that could rock the community with the news. Options like…

Sweeney Todd

His ‘friends’ would be working overtime.
Source: FanPop

Ha! Didn’t see that one coming, did ya?

It’s funny how most people don’t talk about this movie anymore. It’s arguably the last role that Johnny Depp did that you can call ‘good’ without qualifying that statement. What’s more, it’s a Warner Bros. owned horror film – making it a valid choice for DLC.

I feel that someone this unexpected could create a lot of buzz and make the game interesting; the lost soul of ‘The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ so consumed with vengeance that he’ll fight his way out of the netherrealm to get it.

Also, I’ve just really wanted to slowly slit Johnny Cage’s throat with a straight razor ever since I first saw him.

Guyver One

The fact that this exists proves I’m not alone in the universe.
Source: ultimate-savage.deviantart.com/

Okay, this one’s a bit complicated.

Before anyone asks, yes – the Bio-Booster Armor Guyver franchise was originally a manga published by Viz Media that was adapted into an anime published by Manga Entertainment. HOWEVER, New Line Cinema picked up the movie rights and released two films based on the franchise. And since Warner Bros. merged with them in 2008, it’s possible that they still have the rights.

“But Agent,” I hear you plea, “Weren’t those movies inconsistent and ham-fisted schlock that even lovers of bad movies have trouble stomaching? Why would you include that in a game like this?”

Well, I’m thinking of it as a chance for redemption. There’s nothing saying that they need to follow the note set by the films. This could be a chance to bring the character back to his sci-fi/action/horror roots. Plus, it would be a nice change up to see a hero in a DLC instead of a villian.

I only have one request; please go back to calling the kid in Guyver One Shō Fukamachi instead of Sean Barker. We really don’t need stuff like that in this day and age.