Friday, 19 June 2015

RanStacking - EP2 - Cruise Control

This post went up first on Ninja Blues.

Last time we rescued our slightly larger brother from a life of shovelling coal for the train system.

We move from a train level to a boat level, I think I see where this is going, one sibling per environment but first we have to solve a series of puzzles using our ability to stack and the abilities of the characters we stack into. I don’t see Charlie himself getting any new skills so it all will come down to the puzzles we are presented with and the folks we get to ride. Plus it seems like there is a handy rule of thumb for the number of levels, I am guessing it will be the same as the number of siblings, possibly siblings plus one for a final confrontation with the baron. But does anyone remember how many sibling Charlie has? I certainly don’t.

It also looks like there will be work to do in the hub area before we can move on to the later levels. The game helpfully tells me about some of the hijinks I can now get up to, but I will go into them a bit more next time, when I actually will play around with them a little more.

I should note that as of the time of these posts, all of the Double Fine games are on sale on Steam. I don’t know if it will drop lower during a daily or flash deal but Stacking is available for only $3.39 or your local equivalent

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

RanStacking - EP1 - A Brief Training Period

Note: All posts here are going up on Ninja Blues first. So if you want to get the first crack at them you should check them out over there.

I am kicking off a new series with Stacking by Double Fine, which was one of their XBLA titles that eventually made its way to PC. I bought it some time ago but never got around to trying it out. All I could remember when I started this was that it was a puzzle game that involved Matryoshka dolls, so some viewers/readers may be much more familiar with the game than I am.

I was immediately caught out by the art style, I knew it involved dolls, but I didn't really expect it to translate into the entire world being made out of toys and other building materials that emphasize the small size of all of the characters. From playing cards and pins to the occasional incandescent bulb the world really embraces the idea that someone is playing with these toys, someone with a massive collection and a great talent for building things. I am looking forward to see more in this world as the game progresses.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Ranneko Saves The Date

I have played a bit more Save The Date since the end of this video and it gets a bit more philosophical though I am yet to find a way to "win" that doesn't involve being an awesome hacker.

It is pretty clear that the Chris was trying to say something when he made this game, it feels like a very safe assumption given that Felicia will outright tell you that the creator must have had an idea they want to explore.

To me Save The Date is an exploration of an exercise I think everyone has done at some point. Running back through a day or series of events wondering what you could have done to prevent that big mistake/regret/loss.

In real life this is about as futile as it is in Save the Date, you can't change the past just as you cannot really save Felicia if you go out with her. Instead the game forces disaster at every single turn. In the end the only way to save the date is for it to never take place at all.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP12 - The Mark and The Master

Warning: The following text will contain spoilers for the end of Mark of the Ninja. This probably should be expected for the final episode of a lets play of the game. But given what I am going to talk about is revealed in the last 5 minutes or so I think a spoiler warning is only fair.

I definitely did not see the twist here coming. That Azai was betraying us and something fishy was going on sure, that was pretty obvious, but that our companion was a mark based hallucination was a total surprise. It is the kind of thing that makes me want to go back and see if anyone interacts with her in cutscenes.

I never thought it odd that she always was capable of catching up but never attacked foes for me, because she is an NPC in a game, clearly intended to be a guide character. So that she never helped directly was unsurprising, heck one of the level puzzles revolved around actually helping her get past an obstacle. Something that theoretically was totally unnecessary.

Ultimately I sided with my hallucination not because it was the right thing to do, honestly I am very sympathetic to Azai and his plan to allow the clan to continue. But at this point I figured Mark was completely under the Mark's delusions, after all just how many clan members did he kill to confront Azai? And not just the well equipped stalkers. All of the guards on these levels turn out to be regular ninjas after you kill them and I have no idea how much of a threat they really represented. If I do side with Azai I think I would have to have taken a pacifism based approach to the last level.

I had a great time with Mark of the Ninja, while the keyboard and mouse controls are occasionally frustrating, the light, shadow and noise systems work so well and it is really satisfying working out how to get past a set of guards either through slowly whittling down their numbers or just passing by while they are unaware.

Ultimately I wish I had gotten around to playing this game earlier, when more of my friends were playing it.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP11 - Avenging the Artist

That did not end well for Dosan. But at least we got the final stage of the mark so now we can teleport. This level is definitely meant to make sure that you learn to incorporate this new ability into your repertoire. I found it pretty frustrating because frankly I kept forgetting it was there and you really can't. This level actually took me longer than the previous one, there are a lot of failed attempts on the editing floor.

Found it especially interesting that this level does not let you pick your gear, not even on subsequent playthroughs. This is because the teleport move is actually tied to your outfit, changing to another mask removes your ability to use it and a bunch of the puzzles in this level are impossible (or at least intended to be impossible/fiendishly difficult) without the ability to teleport.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP10 - For the Sake of the Artist

I will admit, I expected to be dealing with Mark's hometown at this point, not some ruin location full of trapped rusting out vehicles and other obstacles. But it does make sense to track down the artist Dosan since he definitely appeared to be on our side and we get to find out more about the mark and its source in the process.

I do not like the trapped cover, mostly because I rarely think to check it out with my fancy sight so it takes me by surprise pretty often, which just means I end up reloading checkpoints even more frequently.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP9 - Killing Karajan

Well, we knew it was coming so this was hardly a surprise the game literally set this moment up from the very second level. I definitely appreciate that Karajan is not shown as a combatant at all. Every time you get close he retreats unless finally he is trapped in a box of his own devising. This was never going to end well for him because he was up against a video game protagonist. Someone who can never lose since they just reload whenever mistakes are made.

Now with that done I am sure that Mark will head back to Ninjatown, commit seppuku and everyone (else) will live happily ever after. It is not like the game has been hinting that your Master has been up to something or anything.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP8 - Get To Da Choppa

Last time we closed in on Karajan he sicked Kelly on us and got away in his chopper. Rather than face that possibility again it is time for Mark to get to the chopper first and ensure it isn't going anywhere.

This level also introduces a challenging new foe, the elite guard, one who is immune to stealth kills unless first disabled. Really inconvenient unless you have been upgrading your distraction items or ninja tools. Fortunately the game also provides us with some handy tools within the level itself to help dispose of some of them and as for the rest of them? Karajan probably should have invested in some gas masks for these guys shouldn't he?

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP7 - The Vast Stinky Depths

Turns out that the walls to the castle are too difficult to scale undetected so we have taken a second, deeper route. The castle is somehow built over an abyss full of choking poisonous gas. How charming, but it provides us an alternate path, one full of crates and guards with Night Vision.

It is interesting how ordinary guards with night vision turn out to be, to me they are effectively just guards that are always using their torches and actually the bigger obstacle they present is their immunity to the toxic gas found in my upgraded smoke bombs.

The final encounter in this level is particularly interesting, it is an escalating survive for at least 60 seconds scenario and one I am not entirely sure how I would have handled without the Mask of Nightmares. Do the guards raise the alarm during this encounter? I wouldn't know because for me they simply panicked whenever they saw a corpse. I love that mask.

Monday, 1 June 2015

100 Weekdays of Daily Challenge Challenge

Today marks 100 weekdays in a row of Daily Challenge Challenges (and another 60 videos prior to this streak), it has persisted through travel, family visits and even now a full time job. It is something I deliberately make time for each day, even now it has a sporadic schedule and the live audience is significantly reduced. I am proud of it mostly because of the persistence involved, even if the ultimately my initial goal of besting my friends reliably at Crypt of the NecroDancer has been an utter failure.

Turns out 5 games a week simply is not enough to get me to significantly improve at a game, ultimately that is 5-10 minutes a day and I don't really have the urge to play more often that that and as a result I still mostly die in zone 1 and only occasionally reach zone 2.

I also don't anticipate getting better at OlliOlli, the daily grind is fun and interesting, and it has only a very small community playing it such that I have actually made the number 1 slot a number of times. This is less impressive than even that sounds as the extreme score fall off in that game leads to my victories being more pulling a Bradbury over pure skill, timing and reflexes.

Finally Spelunky I think demonstrates most clearly of all that it takes more than the daily challenge to improve your skills. Spelunky has become my go to game for spending a little bit of time, meaning I have sunk a fair amount of time off stream into Spelunky as well and I have improved by leaps and bounds. When I started I avoided irritating shopkeepers and had never seen the end of the ice caves, now I have beaten the game 3 times, including one speed run and am pushing my way towards hell. It always feels like the high point of my stream, my chance to really push on and make progress. The kind of feeling I only get rarely when I play NecroDancer

To celebrate reaching a streak count of 100 I am running a giveaway. The winner will get their choice of:
  • Crypt of the NecroDancer
  • OlliOlli
  • Spelunky
  • Massive Chalice
To enter, either comment here or on video 100 congratulating me before my next stream (which will probably start sometime between 5 or 6pm)

Ran of the Ninja - EP6 - Karajan Castled

While we took out Kelly last time, Karajan made his escape but we have tracked him down to a castle somewhere in Eastern Europe. Between this episode and the last I replayed some of the older level tracking down scrolls and collectibles I had previously missed. I normally wouldn't really bother with that kind of thing but I have been enjoying the game enough that I have wanted to play it more often than I have had chances to record.

This means I have started to unlock more masks which let you tinker more with your play style. I had assumed initially that masks would be locked for the entire level, so picking that would also predetermine your approach, but actually any time you can requip (at the various black flag) you can select a new mask, you it really only determines your approach for that section.

Really wish I could see the seals when I make the selection though, especially at the start of a given level, some seals are basically impossible to obtain with particular masks (especially the swordless stealthy mask).