Tag Archives: Platformer

On the 2017 Game of the Year

Excuse me while I brush the cobwebs off.

At some point this month (possibly even this week), there’s going to be a Game of the Year show from Aggrochat. I’ll keep most of my thoughts contained to that show (or possibly a post after said show), but I do want to place some special emphasis on one game from last year. In a year filled with many incredible games, one stands out as my overall favorite.

Hollow Knight was my favorite game of 2017, and also my favorite Metroidvania, period. (For anyone wondering, it’s displacing Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow.) It’s a beautiful and expansive entry into the genre, set in a kingdom of bugs. The art style is fairly unique: It’s hand-drawn with limited use of color. This is fairly subtle, but it’s enough to give most areas a unique feel. Things that hurt you tend to be orange.

A while back, Matt Lees mentioned (when talking about Hyper Light Drifter) that “It’s a bit like Dark Souls” basically translates to “I don’t know what I’m talking about.” I’m not really going to help matters at all: Hollow Knight bears a more than superficial resemblance to Dark Souls. Aside from the obvious “lose all of your currency on death” aspect, it really shows in the storytelling. You are dropped into the kingdom and a nearly empty town with no context. Bits and pieces of the story are handed out as you go, mostly from various NPC interactions. Taken as a whole, you can get a picture of the world (and the awful things that happened before you got there). You get the feeling of being alone in a very big world, thanks to how rare it is to see NPCs that don’t want to do you harm.

The thing that really puts Hollow Knight over the top for me is the incredible sense of exploration. The game is very nonlinear even for the genre, and the map is very large. Without sequence breaking, you need to get the fireball, the dash, and the wall climb. After this point, things get really open. You’re intended to go into City of Tears, but there’s very little preventing you from poking the other edges of the map and finding your way into some very dark places. On a smaller scale, the game is good at rewarding poking into things. Hidden rooms are blacked out until you either walk into them or break open the entrance. Tiny corners tend to have some sort of reward, usually in the form of a relic (lore and currency) but sometimes a captured grub or something rarer. I also found traversal a lot of fun once you have the dash and wall-jump, although no single ability stands out in this area. (Ori still holds the crown for most fun movement ability ever.)

All of this without even mentioning the charms, or the bosses, or the major secrets. I really had fun with this one, and you can probably hear me repeat a lot of this in a few days.

On Heavy Rainfall

Blaugust Post #22

This was supposed to be a post months ago, but it got written on paper and never typed up. I’ve since lost it.

Risk of rain is a mostly platformer with rogue-like elements. It’s (so far) my favorite example of such, although it’s quickly becoming a crowded genre (Spleunky, Rogue Legacy, and the recent Warlocks Vs. Shadows all qualify). I find Risk of Rain interesting largely because of the risk/reward mechanism of its time mechanic.



The primary goal of Risk of Rain is to get to the final level (which is always the UES Contact Light), beat the final boss, and leave the planet that you crashed on. This is accomplished by playing through a minimum of 5 other levels, finding and activating the teleporter in each level, and surviving through the wave of enemies that assault you when you do this. Enemies also spawn naturally over time, at a rate determined by what level you’re on, and how long you’ve been playing the current game. The largest difference in difficulty settings is how quickly this process occurs.

There are 12 characters, 11 of which must be unlocked, and 10 different stages, where which ones you visit are determined semi-randomly. Each of the first 4 levels will be one of 2 options, level 5 is always the Ancient Temple. After that, you can either start revisiting levels or move on to the end of the game. Along the way you will pick up a wide variety of items, mostly randomly determined. There are a few places to influence what items you get, as well as a really big way that you can eventually unlock.

RoR Golems


One of the more interesting things about Risk of rain to me is the character variety. You start off with just the commando, who is fairly decent, but I find somewhat boring. The thing is, starting out, you’re going to die on the first level. You’re going to die on the first level probably more than once. Despite this, you can be making progress toward unlocking the other characters. Beating the three boss options on level 1 will unlock the enforcer. Collecting enough drones will eventually get you the engineer. Enough monster logs will get you the huntress, but there aren’t actually enough monster types until you get to the second level(s) consistently.

Then there are the ones that you won’t unlock by chance. The Sniper requires that you beat the game once, and the Mercenary that you do it 5 times. There are also a few that you need to find, which requires that you a) get the right level, and b) get the version that has that character. HAN-D is a bit easier (in a manner of speaking) because he’s in the final stage, and will therefore always be there if you can get that far.

RoR Trouble


The other interesting thing is the item selection. The longer you spend on a stage, the more money you have to open chests and get items, but the harder the enemies will be, making for a generally enjoyable risk/reward mechanism. Some items are better for some characters than others: Acrid tends to kill things while they’re clumped up, so the item that causes enemies to explode on death is amazing. The command attacks extremely quickly, and so gets more out of items like the ukulele or missiles.

Recently artifacts were added, and these let you modify the game in some ways, which can make things easier or harder, depending. One in particular, Command, allows you to choose what items you get (within the bounds of rarity). Glass cuts your health to only 10%, but makes you do significantly more damage.

RoR Artifact

Co-op doesn’t use Steamworks, so it’s a little iffy. Even so, this is one of the best small indie games I’ve experienced. It goes on sale for very few dollars pretty often, so take a look.

On Ninjas

Blaugust Post #2

N++ was announced before the PS4 came out, and released this past week on PS4. It’s the sequel of sorts to N+, which was on the PSP, DS, and 360, which was itself the successor to the flash game N. (Note: I don’t think the original holds up terribly well.) The basic concept remains as it did from the beginning: You are a ninja, get through the levels with as much time left on the clock as possible. Levels contain gold, and each piece picked up adds two seconds. For the 360 version of N+ and for N++, the game tracks your time against other players automatically. Levels are simple, single-screen affairs but there are a very large number of them, ranging in difficulty from 1-1 to Super Meat Boy.


Newton’s First Law

One of the key concepts in the N series is one that was in the kind of Sonic games Sega doesn’t make anymore: Momentum is key. Standard movement speed is pretty fast, but use of ramps and wall jumps can speed things up dramatically, or let you get to jump higher than you can from level ground. N++ in particular begins with levels attempting to teach this, and I’d say it does a pretty good job. I’m not the best judge, because I played a lot of N+. I will say that the level “Intro to accepting your limitations?” is a bit of a dirty trick, because it’s the third level in the tutorial but requires you to grasp the concepts from later tutorial levels to 100% it.

Profanity, Usage by Cause:

One of the areas where N+ really shined was in multiplayer. You could play in the single player levels, but there were also special co-op levels that require at least two people. I’ve referred to the New Super Mario Series as “divorce mode” multiplayer, but this is almost as bad. (Almost, because at least you don’t have collision with your partners.) You will likely have moments of stress where someone is leading a rocket around and you are a little too close, or when someone hits the bounce block you were aiming at causing you to fall into a minefield. It happens. Restarting a level is always only a button press away. If you’re going into it with the intent to break up your friendships, there’s also a race mode.

N++ is one of those sequels that is “the same, but more”, and I’m okay with that. More levels, more obstacles, more colors, and more features make this a worthwhile pickup, and I really like what I’ve played of it so far. I recommend this game if you like relatively difficult platformers and/or games that are better when you add people.

On Digging Implements

Shovel Knight was a game that hit Kickstarter right around when “Kickstarter Fatigue” was setting in for me. I took note of it, saw that it looked mildly interesting, and resolved to get it if it ever came out. Fast forward about a year, and I found myself in possession of Shovel Knight on Steam. this became a bit of a topic for conversation in the podcast, which you can find below.

Thoughts, Extended

But that’s not the end of the story. Shovel Knight is a pretty awesome game, playing like a strange cross between Mega Man and Ducktales. Kodra also would throw in Zelda 2, but that’s before my time. The world map looks (and in some cases acts) like Super Mario Bros. 3. The game proper involves traveling to 8 stages and defeating the robot masters Order of No Quarter by hitting them and bouncing on their heads with a pogo stick shovel. After doing so, you can travel to the final stages and defeat the final boss and beat the game.

Meanwhile, there’s a bit of progression in a Zelda sort of sense. You get an inventory of relics that can be used for both combat and traversal. You can buy health upgrades, and different colored armors that grant different bonuses. You can even get two bottles Troupple Chalices that you can store potionsichor in. Relics are used in the same manner as subweapons in Castlevania.

shovel drop
References to games you may or may not have played aside, the game is incredibly fun. Learning how to use the shovel drop and the normal swing (and later, the charged swing) makes for compelling gameplay. The platforming asked of you during the levels (especially the final one) is very reminiscent of the early mega man games, including a tendency to put insta-kill spikes in unfortunate places. I highly recommend picking up Shovel Knight if you like any of the games I mentioned in the opening, or old-school games in general.

polar knight
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