Luminux

Do you know what I hate? That we call games like Tetris “puzzle games.” It seems somehow wrong, since we also apply that term to stuff like Lolo, Spyleaks, Gateways, and Portal, even though they couldn’t be more different. Readers of mine suggested “Puzzle-Like.” But that’s just asking for a marketing disaster, like if a restaurant served you a “meat-like protein substitute.” The best I could come up with is “Cognitive Dexterity Tester” or CDT for short, though that’s a terrible name. Not to mention it would confuse the dentists that read me.

Luminux 1Yes, I’m stalling. Why? Because I really don’t have a ton to say about Luminux, a game by my good buddy Eric Hornby. The idea is, you have a 5 x 4 play field on which different colored blocks spawn on. Pushing together a straight line of three or more of the same color block clears them. And uh…….. well, that’s it really. The setup doesn’t sound hugely complex, but it lends itself to combo-heavy gameplay, which is one of my favorite aspects of any action-puzzler (I guess that’s the universally accepted term for the genre, though that still sounds wrong to me). So obviously I liked Luminux, right? Actually, no I didn’t. Because it just ramps up in speed and difficulty too damn quickly. Only three levels in, blocks spawn at such an insanely fast rate that you barely have time to think. And because stuff spawns randomly, you’re partially left at the mercy of the luck of the draw. After a certain point of speed, it would probably make more sense to only have one block spawn at a time. It doesn’t work that way. Any spawning block you slide an existing block over is destroyed, which buys you a little time, but not enough. Once you get to level four, forget about it. I usually consider myself pretty good at games like this, but the absurd speeds combined with the luck factor are just too much to overcome.

At first, I thought this was an example of a developer trying to challenge themselves instead of challenging their consumers, but as it turns out, that was wrong. Instead, the team at Pelagic Games was trying to create an experience that could be over and done with in three minutes or less. Now, I more than anyone else has said one of the reasons I like certain handheld games (especially stuff on phones) is that you can pick them up and put them down with little consequence. But action-puzzlers don’t lend themselves to that. If you have to drop your game, you have to drop your game. You can’t tell someone “give me a second, I’m about to hit level four and then I’m pretty much screwed” if you’re waiting in line at Starbucks. If a developer wants to limit a play session for a game like this, it really needs to be done via an actual timer. By having the game accelerate the way it does, it becomes more frustrating than challenging, and consequently turns people off. There is a slower-paced mode where the blocks only spawn in when you move blocks. I’m happy it’s there, and it’s certainly where Luminux is at its strongest, but having to unlock it is fucking annoying.

By total coincident, "Cosmic Meltdown" is the term Brian used to describe what was happening to me while I was playing 1001 Spikes.

By total coincident, “Cosmic Meltdown” is the term Brian used to describe what was happening to me while I was playing 1001 Spikes.

That mode alone doesn’t save Luminux. I feel the play field is also too small. As I mentioned earlier, the system they’ve created lends itself well to setting up combos. Unfortunately, there’s simply not enough room to do this well. Having the field be taller than it is wide makes Luminux feel more awkward than it needs to be. If this had been made specifically for iPad, the field could have been bigger and the game would have been better. Luminux isn’t without good ideas. But the package never comes together. Thankfully, when I broke the news to Eric, he took it well. In fact, he had a moment of revelation.

“So I think I see what you mean. Luminux would do better with a slower difficulty pacing because it would allow people to get into (it) easier. It certainly takes a little while to get adept enough to be comfortable with its pace and your criticism is probably the most heard one I’ve gotten after the release. By aiming to keep the game completed in under 3 minutes by even skilled players we instead made a game that new players have a hard time getting into. Instead, we shouldn’t have worried too much about “limiting” the time frame of play and instead just focused on a pacing that would have felt better, even if it meant that skilled players might find the game taking “too long.” (especially considering that skilled players already like the game.) Does this seem to be about the right lesson I should be taking from your commentary?”

Yes, yes it is. Sigh. I hate it when developers figure it out before the review is up. It makes me feel guilty when I want to use lines like “Luminux Lumi-Sux.”

Luminux logoLuminux was developed by Pelagic Games

$1.99 in all seriousness wants to thank Pelagic games for its consideration in including “the switch” which lessened my personal epilepsy risk in the making of this review. Much love to you guys. Issue a second chance against me sometime in the future.

 

 

 

 

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Year Walk and Ridiculous Fishing

You know what I don’t understand?  Portable gaming consoles.  I get the concept, I think.  It’s a console, but you can take it anywhere.  Cool, right?  Except, when I think of situations where I use a portable gaming device, I typically only have a few minutes to play.  I’m not into gaming in car rides (even the nice Vita screen is unplayable with the sun glaring), I don’t do a lot of plane rides, and when I’m at home, I would rather play a game on a proper console.  The only times where it makes sense for me to play a portable game are when I’ve got ten minutes or less to kill.  Waiting in a line, or out having a cigarette, or with whatever time I have to spare during a lunch break.  That’s why I’m baffled at the types of portable games that are popular on Vita or 3DS these days.  Hey, I loved Persona 4 Golden as much as the next person, but I would have loved it just as much if I had played in on the PlayStation 3.  Probably more, in fact.  Why does Uncharted even need a stripped down portable version?  Why did Nintendo make a port of Ocarina of Time one of the flagship launch-window titles for 3DS?  These aren’t games designed to be portable.  These are console games that require significant time investments.  What if I just want to play something for five minutes while taking a dump?

The only valid argument I’ve heard is “what if you have to share the television with others?”  Granted, that was never a problem with me.  Only child here that had her own television from an early age.  I guess my parents weren’t keen on watching endless reruns of Barney and Sesame Street.  Still, as someone who is very fond of consoles, I’ve oddly never had the desire to carry one around with me.  Brian says I’m almost certainly in the minority on that.  I say that just proves how much smarter I am than everyone else.

And don’t say I don’t know humility.  I do.  It’s what measures moisture in the air.

The kind of portable gaming sessions I want are readily available.  They’re typically found on phones.  Most of the time.  Year Walk is a bizarre horror-adventure game based on Swedish mythology.  It seems like it could be a decent title, but this is one of those cases where the game failed to grab my interest right out of the gate and I just couldn’t get into it.  I’m not a big fan of point and click games.  This is more exploration-oriented than average, but I fucking hate games where you wander around with no clue of where to go, what your objectives are, or what the ultimate goal is.  Plus, it had features I’m not too keen on, like sound-based puzzles.  I typically play my iPhone games with the sound turned off, because I have a strong desire to not annoy those around me.  I mean, more so than usual.

I don't deny Year Walk is spooky. It really is. But I don't feel it's put to good use on iOS. I would have rather played this on a television.

I don’t deny Year Walk is spooky. It really is. But I don’t feel it’s put to good use on iOS. I would have rather played this on a television.

I didn’t finish Year Walk.  Not even close.  I spent most of the game just aimlessly shambling about.  Yea, the settings were spooky, but I would have rather played this on a console, or the Vita.  I probably should have fired this up on the iPad, where at least I could have seen things better.  But, the truth was, I didn’t want to play it anymore.  I was bored.  I think horror-adventure fans might get a lot more mileage out of this than I did.  Really, I was just disappointed that this wasn’t a game about Wicket’s first birthday.

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Get it?  Wicket was an Ewok.  Ewok sounds like Year Walk?

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You know, Brian told me that one was no good.  I didn’t listen to him.  And now he’s gloating.  He said “it’s too obscure a Star Wars pun and you have to make too large a logical leap to draw the connection.”  Fine.  Trying again: I thought Year Walk was boring.  Would have been better if it had starred Luke Yearwalker.

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Ridiculous Fishing has absolutely no connection to Year Walk, other than being on iPhone.  When I told someone I was reviewing this, they said “I’ve never liked a fishing game.  Never ever ever.”  Although I can’t say the same (I was quite fond of Sega Bass Fishing when I was ten),  saying this is about fishing is like saying Punch-Out is an authentic boxing simulator.  Here, you use the tilt-controls of your phone to lower a fishing lure to the bottom of the sea.  While it’s descending,  you want to avoid touching fish.  Once you touch a fish, the descent stops and the lure starts to surface.  Any fish you touch at this point are on the hook and being reeled in.  When you reach the surface, the fish fly up in the air.  At this point, you whip out a gun and shoot them.

No, seriously.  You shoot them.  With a gun.  Okay, so it’s not the most ridiculous form of fishing I’ve ever seen.  These Lithuanians I believe have that covered.

God bless YouTube.

Fishy fishy in the brook.. I wonder if Brooks Bishop hated that rhyme as a kid?

Fishy fishy in the brook.. I wonder if Brooks Bishop hated that rhyme as a kid?

I’ve never, ever liked tilt-controls.  Ridiculous Fishing is the first game that I truly enjoyed because of tilt-controls.  It just works.  It’s accurate, it feels natural, and it makes the game more fun.  And Ridiculous Fishing is perfectly suited for micro-gaming sessions.  Got five minutes to kill?  Cast a line, scoop up some fish, shoot those fuckers up, and get back to what you were doing.  It also has actual depth to it, with time-sinky upgrades and a decent (not spectacular) variety of fish to catch.   In a sense, it’s the perfect mobile game.  My biggest complaints are how there’s no jelly-fish repellent among the items.  Well, that and the Game Center leaderboards are sort of limited.  Oh, and maybe the game is a teeny-tiny bit overpriced at $2.99.  A little steep for a game with no variety at all, especially on the iPhone market.  Of course, Year Walk cost $3.99 and it’s on the wrong platform.  It would probably make an excellent PC game, but at its price, it’s like paying LeBron James to play on your cricket team.

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Wait, you mean we’re not going to eat them?

Year Walk was developed by Simogo and I really want to try it on a console at some point. Ouya, perhaps?

Ridiculous Fishing was developed by Vlambeer and is Chick Approved.

Seal of Approval Large

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