Today, you finally learn about my love for puzzle games.
And awesome first person dungeon crawlers. <3
Yes, I’m a hardcore gamer. It’s no secret that I love to die a lot. To me, getting game overs during the first dungeon/area/tutorial in a game is a really good sign that I’m going to have a good time. I always take on the highest difficulty level available, and overcoming immense challenges is one of the biggest rewards I know in gaming. Knowing this, I’m sure you would guess that my favorite genre is action, right? Lots of baddies, all willing to give their lives for the ultimate purpose of killing me? Or maybe I love shooters. Tons of targets, bullets flying all over, give me an arsenal of a dozen or so guns and let me run around and unleash hell while rockets and fireballs dart by, inches from my face? Or maybe i’m a strategist, and there’s nothing I love more than to pit my own wits and ability to think and react on the fly to an ever-changing battlefield against a nearly perfect computer foe?
Actually, no. While I love all sorts of games in almost every genre out there…
My favorite is puzzle games. (Oh… did I mention that the first sentence was spoilers? Well…..spoilers!)
There is no genre out there that gets my juices flowing (eww) more than puzzle games. (and occasionally rhythm games, but they’re a different variety of juice entirely.) When things get intense, when the action speeds up, when combos are building and my thumbs are flying as fast as the game can handle, that feeling is just amazing. I love a lot of games in the puzzle genre, but some of my favorites are the ones that really heat up. Tetris is good, but it was by far the best in Tetris DS. Meteos is my favorite puzzle game ever. (just PLAY IT. It’s awesome. Get a DS if you don’t have one, and you can get it really cheap.) Bust-A-Move is a solid one, most of the time. Lumines is a beautiful and addictive yet deceptively simple puzzler that I continue to return to… but one that I’ve been addicted to through the course of some 4 iterations I’ve played to death every time now, is the classic match-3 game, Pokemon Puzzle League, AKA Pokemon Puzzle Challenge, AKA Puzzle League (DS, it was seriously hard to go back to buttons after this one… also if you’re taking notes, almost every one of my favorite puzzle games was amazing on the DS, which is also my favorite game system. Coincidence? ), AKA Tetris Attack.
Chances are, you’ve played it or something very much like it. Blocks slowly lift up from below and you can swap any two left and right of each other. You make them disappear by matching 3 or more like-colored blocks in a line, and any blocks without something below them will fall. You can use this to make another match after something falls, creating a “chain.”
The gameplay is very simple but the game gets intense, especially if you’re like me and your instinctual reaction to a mostly-empty screen is to hold L/R (automatically pushes up another layer of blocks onto the screen) until the screen is almost completely full. It puts you much closer to the edge of failure, but the chances for getting chains to go off and the potential to give you more time/blocks to work with to continue chains as they’re running can mean big points, or a big attack against your opponent in a versus match.
Interestingly, I’ve never played Tetris Attack before this. It’s the first iteration of the Puzzle League formula, and as a result its wrinkles are really starting to show. As someone who invested 120 hours into the Gameboy Color version (Pokemon Puzzle Challenge) and conquered every insane challenge of it and the N64 game (Pokemon Puzzle League), I knew almost immediately that a few things about the base mechanics felt a bit… off, in the SNES game.
I guess it’s to be expected of the earliest version of the series, but after the insane AI I’ve gone up against and the awesome amount of stuff to do in the newer games, completely annihilating hard mode and the unlockable “hardest” mode with no problem after spending about 1 hour with the game left me wanting more. Also, it uses passwords. PASSWORDS IN A SNES GAME. WHAT.
Okay, enough geeking out about puzzle games. It’s time for a shiny new dungeon crawler!
Legend of Grimrock. Okay, there’s not much bad I can say about this game. It’s a first person dungeon crawler, but it does some really interesting things. Movement takes place entirely on a grid. You can only move and look around one space or 90 degrees at a time. You go in with a party of four, each character standing in 1/4 of a square. Characters in the back have to use long-range weapons or magic, but they also avoid the majority of attacks simply by having two bodies in front who take all the hits. Unless you get stupid and stare at a wall while a spider chews on your mage and rogue. Which isn’t much of a viable tactic, but I won’t stop you from trying.
Combat and movement actually happens in real-time in this game. At first, I thought it was strange and unnecessary. Most games like this back in the day had turn-based movement. Why restrict actions to a grid if combat is real-time? Well, it turns out it’s actually a great combination. Your 4 characters each can do actions on a cooldown timer, taking a certain amount of time before they can act again based on what they did. They can equip items in each hand for quick access, giving you a total of 8 actions between all your party members. It’s fairly limited, but in a good way. It makes you really think how you will use skill points and who will be able to use what items/weapons. And when combat inevitably rolls around, your pre-planning plays a large part in how well you do. But almost just as cool is how important constant movement and strategy in a fight is. The restrictions of the grid become both your greatest weapon and your very quick downfall, especially playing on Hard, where you literally can’t win by standing in place and exchanging blows.
By moving just before an enemy attacks, you can avoid their attack animation. You can dodge fireballs and escape from the path of charging ogres. I can almost imagine it’s possible to beat the game without taking a single hit. Against one enemy, it’s easy to do, and you can quickly throw in attacks as the monster tries to keep up with your movements. But when more than one join in the fight, things can get awesomely hectic. You need to stay on the move to avoid getting cornered, and if you’re careless an enemy will quickly block your escape route.
But that’s just combat. The whole package is something much bigger/better. There are traps and secrets all over the place. There are puzzles and cryptic messages. There’s a lot of mystery. You will probably miss a ton of stuff on your first time going through, until you look up a FAQ and find massive areas you never even knew existed. For what it is, they really crammed a lot in there. And they definitely used every ounce of potential to be had in their level designs. There’s a lot of really good stuff, there.
Plus, an awesome little thing… your characters all have little portraits, which you can choose during character creation OR if you’re like me you can make your own and import them! I’ve been playing through with a team made up of my own OCs, and it’s just so much more fun to play that way. I love adding in that sense of personality and character interaction (I just naturally do that when I play games like this. Link has a voice and character in Link to the Past, Isaac actually interacts in ways other than “yes/no” in Golden Sun, etc, etc) to a game that otherwise doesn’t have any.
Also, bonus round: Guild Wars 2!
It’s amazing and my Charr is a fine piece of rogue.
That is all.