Escape From The Facility

My current People Playground mod-enabled obsession is the “Facility Escape”. The background for this RP is simple: A character from another setting is trapped in the mysterious mad science super-facility and has to try and escape, fighting their way past an army of workers, security contractors, androids, and who knows what else.

Characters from settings as distinct as Undertale and Hotline Miami have been placed in the playground. The (intentional) clumsiness of the human figures just, if anything adds to the fun. There’s nothing like jury-rigging an “epic” sword vs. chainsaw battle.

Characters who have “earned the privilege” of escaping have the final exit simulated by a black hole being created with them sucked in. This symbolizes a portal to their home setting (or somewhere else?) being activated.

A Thousand Words: Noita

Noita

A roguelike platformer based on Finnish mythology, Noita (Finnish for “mage” ) is a brilliant game of losing. You control a vague purple-robed wand-wielding adventurer and delve into one randomly generated cave after another, facing all sorts of threats and almost always getting killed.

The big gimmick of Noita, besides its huge array of customizations, is that every single part of the game world is destructible. So yes, with the right tools you can blast a tunnel down and avoid the monsters-in theory. In practice you’ll probably just break open the entrance to a lava pit or something. This is not a fair game.

But it is a fun one, and it handles well. The player character has a limited levitation “jump” that handles a lot like the jetpack in the classic platformer Cave Story (that’s unlikely to be a coincidence). It’s very smooth and precise, and thus works beautifully. Obviously not everyone will play as story-light, unfair a game as Noita, but for what it is, it’s incredible.

People Playground Peoples

People Playground Peoples

My favorite go-to relaxing game now, especially after I’ve discovered the massive and excellent mod scene, is People Playground. I of course act out a lot of scenarios-ok, a few types of scenarios, involving the mysterious mad science facility. And here are the “roles”.

Subjects

Represented usually by the default “humans”, subjects are the test subjects who are either being killed in terrible ways (don’t feel too bad for them, they struggle to walk several steps) or rebelling in some form (and usually ending up getting killed in terrible ways).

Technicians

Dressed in work-esque outfits, technicians usually sport some kind of chemical mask. They’re often placed by pieces of machinery, where they operate them and oversee experiments (very, very frequently becoming collateral damage). Unlike troopers, technicians mostly use a min-max arsenal-either finicky destructive contraptions or simple/improvised-type weapons that they built themselves.

Troopers

Troopers are the enforcement arm of the facility, being dressed in various kinds of military uniform and carrying a large variety of conventional weapons. Don’t worry, they always get killed in quantity too.

Commanders

Clad in various types of ornate and/or formal clothing, commanders wield sidearms and direct the “experiments”. However, a field commander is just as vulnerable as anyone else on the playground.

A Thousand Words: Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura

One of many indie platformers, Camera Obscura is the story of a photographer-woman trying to climb to the top of an ancient clockwork tower. The big gameplay gimmick is that you can take photos, and the “afterimages” will move for a bit before freezing. This creates temporary platforms.

A (mostly) slow-paced puzzle game, this is not an easy finish. The excellent (I’d recommend the game for the soundtrack alone) original music kind of fits with each area. The story, which is a combination of exposition about the tower builders and a really pretentious, almost stereotypical love story plot involving the photographer, doesn’t really do so. But it’s a small part.

As far as indie games go, you could do a lot worse. Did I mention the music is amazing?

A Thousand Words: Mighty No. 9

Mighty No. 9

Judged on its own without any other context, Mighty No. 9 would resemble a mediocre Mega Man-style game. There have been dozens of those, including more than a few in the official series itself. To study it there would not be the most interesting. About the only things I can say for the game itself are that it copied the cheapest difficulty elements (why?) and in everything from plot to aesthetics simply tried to be “as close to classic Mega Man as possible without lawsuits”.

But what is interesting is the ridiculous amount of hype that came around its crowdfunding. Occuring in the “irrational exuberance” phase of Kickstarter and spearheaded by ex-Mega Man head Keiji Inafune, this was one of those “the gaming king came down to make a dream” experiences. This prompted emotion that successful MM-esques like Azure Striker Gunvolt (made conventionally by a firm that had experience on the official games) and 20XX (crowdfunded yet made by an unknown) couldn’t bring.

The result was a ton of stretch goals “met”, feature creep, the project getting out of hand, the mood turning from hopeful to laughable, and then the game itself sinking like a stone when it was finally released. Whether it could have been better or if the expectations were just too great is an open question. What is not is that this was one of the biggest crowdfunding embarrassments.

A Thousand Words: Postal 2

Postal 2

Running With Scissors’ 2000s “masterpiece”, Postal 2 is a game about a man in a small Arizona town whose goal is just to complete mundane errands. However, a lot of stuff gets in the way. This game is infamous for its tasteless dumb humor, its gore, and the ability to use cats as silencers.

The humor is either dated, unfunny, or both. It’s very much in the style of the shock-the-oldies Dennis Rodman meets Bart Simpson style of the time. The actual gameplay, especially in the plot missions, combines two of the worst elements of turn-of-the-millenium FPSes: A post-hitscan, pre-regen system where combat is a deterministic exercise in power ups, and wandering through very similar hallways.

And yet, there’s stuff that’s genuinely good about it. Part of it is that, off the beaten path, it provides the opportunity for silly spectacle. This is helped by the open-world element being genuinely good. Almost all buildings are enterable, there are locations that have nothing to do with the main missions, there’s plenty of easter eggs, and a silver lining of the combat is that there’s often legitimate power ups (and hence reasons to explore) in the nooks and crannies. Another small part is that there’s just a hint of slyness in just wanting to do chores but getting confronted by everyone from creepy mascots to Gary Coleman.

This is a stupid, clunky, awkward game. And it’s fun.

WMMA5 Style Archetypes

One of the best things about WMMA5 is that you can credibly make people from many different styles. True, you can make balanced “mixed martial artists” or “freestyle” fighters, but where’s the fun in that? Meanwhile, those with a background in traditional or kick boxing, to say nothing of grapplers/wrestlers, are pretty self-explanatory. And combat sambo, which is very close to MMA already, just means a balanced fighter. But there are some more exotics that I’ve found fun to use.

  • Sumo wrestling. Not just for male heavyweights, the pushing nature of sumo means MMA fighters with a background in it trend towards what’s derogatorily called “wall and stall”, where they try to win decisions by pushing and trapping their opponent against the cage/ropes.
  • Shootfighting/pro wrestling. These I move up the “creative attacks” (punches/kicks, submissions) up a lot, to symbolize their stylistic, showy background. Otherwise they’re grapplers.
  • “Practical Fighters”. A catch-all term for those who’ve trained in legit military/law enforcement unarmed fighting. The opposite of the shoot wrestlers, these have very low “creative attacks” ratings, to symbolize their focus on boring but practical solutions.
  • Brawlers. Untrained goons, I’ve frequently given them “arm choke” ratings slightly higher than ‘normal’, because basic choke submissions are the most intuitive. Their strength often exceeds their skill.
  • Points fighters. Both people from combat disciplines that punish you for hitting too hard and other ones who just go for the “striking decisions”. Usually highly mobile, points fighters have high skill but (comparably) little strength.
  • Hillbilly fighters. I have one creation whose stated style is “Hillbilly Fighting”. The attributes have him being a balanced fighter with a penchant for kicking his opponents in the head.

A Thousand Words: Nightmare Reaper

Nightmare Reaper

The just-fully-released Nightmare Reaper is a love letter to both roguelikes (games built around randomized content) and classic “motion shooters”. With that frantic gameplay mixed with a background that involves a trapped young woman’s troubled, twisted dreams (the game takes place in said dreams), it could be called Doom Nikki.

I’ll admit this is not usually my kind of game, but I’ve found that losing can be surprisingly fun (it is extremely generous by roguelike standards in terms of how much dying in a level costs you-or, in this case doesn’t). Of course, besides the traits of a Doom-style shooter, the roguelike randomization means the game’s difficulty can become a lot more luck than skill based.

Still, if you love Doom-style FPSes, this game is definitely for you.

A Thousand Words: Alien3 The Gun

Alien3: The Gun

Based off the ugly duckling of the Alien franchise (infamous for killing off the beloved non-Ripley cast of Aliens, for starters), Sega’s Alien3: The Gun was an arcade lightgun shooter a la Revolution X. Unlike that “how do you do fellow kids” game, this actually manages to be atmospheric. The visuals match the movie’s themes well, and the music is excellent.

In fact, this is the rare game that manages to have its cake and eat it too. Alien properties, following in the wake of the second movie, have this tendency to turn xenomorphs into uglier Koopa Troopas, being generic expendable enemies. (The game Alien: Isolation was a deliberate reaction to this trope). Naturally, a light gun arcade game can only do that… but it still manages to be chilling and foreboding too.

Then there’s how the action is jury-rigged into the movie plot. The player controls an anonymous marine who somehow ended up on the doomed Sulaco and goes through all the parts of the actual movie. There are robots, including a giant tank. Despite there being hordes of xenomorphs, the real one from the actual movie is inexplicably more durable as a boss. And finally, the last boss, in a game full of hideous monsters is….. a human with a flamethrower. It would be annoying in other contexts, but here it’s endearing.

This is the rare quarter-muncher with class and poise, and a pleasant surprise from a genre with low expectations.