Game Diary: GameFest 2.0, Super Hexagon, Rhythm Hunter: HarmoKnight, Dragon Quest IX, Analogue: A Hate Story

September 11, 2012

[The Rotation, a recap of the games I’ve been playing lately, is my weekly exercise to write for fun on a more consistent basis. Enjoy!]

“SUPER HEXAGON. Begin.”

The games I’ve played past week have been a whirl of quick blips in between after-work events and crunching for the September 9 deadline for the first round of assignments in the gamification course I’m taking on Coursera. (I hit the deadline but had four sections of lectures to get through in a week before I did—whew.)

The lectures are a bit of an entry-level introduction to games and mechanics (the main example that sticks out was the professor clarifying what a boss battle is), as many of my classmates have never played video games, but the syllabus and professor point you toward quality resources for learning more about the topic. I’d recommend it if this is your first foray into game design. If you have a game design background,it might not be for you, but signing up just to take a look at the resources links might be worthwhile.

Last Saturday, I went to GameFest 2.0, an event organized by the Art of Video Games exhibit at the American Art Museum. While it was more relaxed than the inaugural GameFest that featured Robin Hunicke from thatgamecompany and Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima, that’s not to say there wasn’t a surprisingly inspirational game-related talk. Disguised as a historical overview of video games, the “Electronic Gaming before Pong” presentation by Don Daglow, president and creative director of Daglow Entertainment LLC, was a heartfelt retelling of the game industry’s growth, peppered with interesting personal anecdotes and capped off with an encouraging message of following your dreams and doing what you love. I highly recommend catching up with the webcast here. Stick through the Q&A. Don’s answers are great.

Anyway, enough talking about talking about games. (Yes, I meant to write it like that; no, you’re not having a stroke.) Time for games.

Super Hexagon

Mercilessly twitch-tastic. Super Hexagon latches on to your reflexes and muscle memory, and challenges you to a brutal duel for survival. Your goal: navigate a tiny triangle safely through the gaps in a series of polygons closing in around you. One unfortunate brush with these enclosing borders, and you’re done. It’s the ultimate in addictive iOS games. A lot of people in my Twitter feed are talking about it, but I’ve yet to see someone brag about surviving longer than 25 seconds.

I’m not a hardcore Super Hexagon practitioner, but I’m glad to have it on my phone. Despite the unchanging levels, it’s always an exhilarating challenge, and I have a feeling I’ll be honing my line-dodging skills for a long, long time.

Analogue: A Hate Story

I’m only 25 percent in to its text-heavy, piecemeal story, but what I’ve seen so far is a terrifying look at where women’s rights have been and where they could fall. The one AI I’ve met is endearing, and I’m excited to see what the others are like, but keeping track of the Kim family tree is confusing as all get-out. It’s been a while since I’ve played a game where I genuinely have a hard time remembering foreign-language names. I’m comfortable with Japanese and Chinese names, but romanized Korean words are still out of my grasp. Practice will help, I’m sure.

Even though this game upsets me as I play it, I’m looking forward to playing more. The enjoyment in Analogue for me is slowly piecing together a convoluted story as you you “discover” information on the in-game terminal, and the unexpected turns along the way.

Ecco the Dolphin

I played this for all of a minute on a black, special-edition Dreamcast at GameFest 2.0. It was fun for about that amount of time. Still, I think I would’ve much rather had an Ecco the Dolphin port on my 3DS than Steel Diver.

Rhythm Hunter: HarmoKnight

This rhythm-platformer rolled straight into my wheelhouse, especially since it contains the battle song from Pokemon as a playable track in its demo version. This track’s inclusion likely has something to do with this game being developed by Pokemon game developer, Game Freak. If Wikipedia’s entry on the company is correct, HarmoKnight is the company’s second non-Pokemon title in the past 10 years. The exception? Drill Dozer on Game Boy Advance in 2005.

Don’t let HarmoKnight’s cutesy veneer fool you—the precision and tightness of controls matches the level of demand often commanded by Bit.Trip Runner or Rhythm Heaven.

Only a handful of games have made me want  to pay away the region-locking and pick up a Japanese 3DS, but after playing the demo on kind-hearted supergamer @rabbit0heart‘s J-3DS, I can add Harmoknight to that bunch (which, for the record, includes the latest Professor Layton titles, Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, Bravely Default and Pokemon Black/White 2).

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

Why am I so late to this party? I didn’t pick this up until it went on super sale a month or so ago, but I wanted to make sure I tried it before DQX debuts. I’m at Coffinwell and am not overly thrilled with it so far. I can see the flourishes of Level 5 theatrics in the game and story (and lending itself to that classic silly Dragon Quest dialogue), but combat plays out slowly, the menu organization is atrocious, and I’m incredibly bored when level grinding inevitably comes up.

From the punchy dialogue and clever enemy and location names, I can see DQIX got an excellent localization treatment. I would love to see the Japanese script for it to see how it happened 1) because I don’t want to sink the time into playing through DQIX again in a foreign language and 2) I’m a hugely unapologetic nerd.

Bit.Trip Runner

I’ve been playing this on-and-off since I got my 3DS and ever time I finish playing, it gets me more psyched for Bit.Trip Runner 2, which I demoed at PAX East 2012. The feeling when you hit all the right notes and max that perfect score is phenomenal—not just at the end of the level but while you’re playing it.

Between Bit.Trip Runner and Super Hexagon’s thumping pixelated tracks, I think my tolerance for chip tunes might gotten a slight bump (meaning I’ll be able to tolerate 30 minutes of chip-tunery at a time, instead of just 15 minutes). Oh yeah, I’ll be ready for MAGFest 11 next year.

Next time…

I’ve finished Papa and Yo, but before I put my keyboard to recapping my playthough, I’d like to mull it over a little more. It’s got beautiful aesthetics and storytelling but not something I can instantly digest between the last couple weeks preparing for multiple weddings, a cavalcade of game events, working, boring through my game backlog, Coursera-ing and keeping the fire going on my other other side projects.

Oh, I’ve also given Just Dance 3 a spin and am orchestrating a series of dancing-related gifs to illustrate what that experience has been like. My favorite part so far?

“Let’s Go to the Mall” by Robin Sparkles.

I’m all aboot this. ^

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