Enter The Gungeon Revew

Enter The Gungeon is a game that I felt like I should like. After finally playing it, I found that I actually do like it a lot.

Enter The Gungeon is a top-down roguelike that plays similarly to Binding of Isaac, except Gungeon is focused on speed and reflexes, with a heavy emphasis on bullet hell gameplay. Players start levels in an entrance room, and move from room to room, taking on a group of benemies in each room. On each level, the player will find a shop where they can buy a weapon or an item from the money they picked up in the level, and hope that the item or weapon will help them as they progress. They will also find treasure rooms, with a treasure that is sometimes free to open, other times locked, and there are a myriad of other secrets in the game, if the player is patient enough to find them out. So yes, it plays a lot like Bindng of Isaac, except its faster, and there’s less humor revolving around feces, which I fully appreciate.

The game starts out slowly and simply enough, allowing the player to grab their barrings, and get into the flow of the game, but soon players will find themselves completely zoned in the game, fighting enemies and dodging bullets, improvising every motion and reacting to everything the game throws their way, giving someone zero time to think of the next thing to do, or even to blink, for blinking will take too much attention away from the game and lead to failure.

At least, that’s how I got sucked into the game. My first play through was very slow and methodical. I didn’t do very well. It was as if my taking my time allowed the game to take advantage and exploit my weakness of not moving fast enough. But after my fourth or fifth run through, I fully adapted, taking enemies as quick as possible, and diving across rooms with ease and a strange, strong sense of control. There’s a whole lot to pay attention to at all times, and a good run will take all of your attention, and will require sharp eyes and a sharp mind.

When I first saw the game in action, I assumed it would play like any other bullet hell game, where the smallest, menial enemies could be taken out in one hit, and easily. In fact, even though the game features a lot of guns, it felt more like a beat ‘em up than a shoot ‘em up; the shooting is purely aesthetic. Many of the rooms contained only a few enemies, three or four, and they still required a certain number of hits. Soon it became clear that I had to hit an enemy a certain amount of times before I took them down, and there was certainly a pattern to everything.

Though the action is frenetic. Upon entering any room, the action is already on. The player has zero time to plan out their action, they need to start moving, and start shooting. They’ll improvise along the way, but there is rarely any time for sitting, thinking, planning, and observing.

My first few runs met with disaster all too soon. I couldn’t even beat the first boss. The first time I ran into the second boss, I lasted just a few seconds. But the more I played, the more I became comfortable with the pace of the game, the dodge maneuvers, and the silliness of the weapons, that at some point, I breezed through the first three levels entirely, effortlessly avoiding the barrage of bullets from bosses.

The game can be pretty frustrating, potentially to a point that your entire play-through will be ruined. Like Isaac, (Please forgive the constant comparisons, it’s unfortunately inevitable) the weapons and items are completely randomized, so it’s possible to start the game off with excellent weapons and items that will help push you through the game, or you’ll end up with useless weapons and items, and you’ll end up getting hit right off the bat. When that happens, it’s very easy to get beat up during the first boss, simply because you don’t anything that will really do any damage. There’s been one time that I fought the first boss with my beginning weapon, a little pea shooter that I’m happy with using during the rest of the level. There’s also been one time, and only one time, that, halfway through the first level, I hit pause and then the restart button, starting over completely. I took too much damage, and found too few weapons, that carrying on just didn’t feel worth it.

Some players, like the gal who reviewed it for Gamespot, doesn’t like the way the game gives out its weapons. Each run-through starts the player off with a weak pea-shooter, and the player picks up new, randomized weapons as they play, and sometimes those weapons are excellent, or they’re not very good at all. Some players seem to prefer that they pick up powerful weapons, and they hold on to that each time they start up the game.

Personally, I disagree. I’m perfectly fine if the game doesn’t give me super powerful weapons right off the bat. Once I beat the first boss, the game is set, and whatever weapon I have is the weapon I have, my success is completely dependent on how I maneuver the levels, and how I avoid the bullets from the other enemies. I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t even look at the enemies, I’m focused entirely on my own dude, watching where bullets come in, and constantly improvising routes to avoid them. My defeating enemies mostly falls on faith; I’m counting on them disappearing eventually. Same goes for bosses, I just keep a mental tab on where they’re located, shoot in that general direction, and run through the bullet hell, and dive when necessary.

For me, the game is all about speed and reflexes. It is not about picking up a powerful weapon and letting it do all the work. It’s about skill, and aim. You may get lucky and pick up a powerful weapon early on that wipes out all the enemies, which is fine. Myself, I could care less. I’m happy if I get a shotgun and an automatic weapon.

Though the game is definitely intended to be played in short bursts. Play any longer than an hour at any time, and the game gets boring and repetitive, and feels more like a chore. Jump in once, beat some bad guys, and then put it down and finish your Dickens novel. I can imagine that’s why most reviewers decide they dislike the game, because they put so much time into it that the game becomes so boring. This I can understand, because I’m definitely had to put it down after getting burnt out quickly.

I haven’t felt this connected to a game in quite a while. There is certainly a lot of creativity in the game. Sometimes the weapons will allow you to do combo moves. One weapon fired little balls that left some weird fluids on the ground. Then I switched over to my fireball gun, and the fire lit the fluids on fire. So yes, play around the guns, use some creativity, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Emoti-con 2016, Youth Taking the Reigns of Tech

While sitting on the subway, eager to to arrive to the event, I became slightly concerned that I was too late. The event started about an hour or so prior, and I made the decision to show up fashionably late, but I was still worried that I would be turned away because the event was time sensitive.

Before long I stood at the front steps of the New York Library, looking towards the door at an angle with the sight of the stone lion in plain sight, its mouth agape, gazing upwards at the sky-high building standing not far in front of it. I made it, I thought, and about time, I was so late. I ran up the stairs, stood in line to open my computer bag for security, took a minute to grab a coffee at the little stand to the right of the entrance and a chocolate chip cookie, and got lost for a few minutes while I looked for the location of Emo-ticon 2016.

Emoti-con 2016 is an annual event held my Mouse, a non-profit that works with children, using technology to help further their education. Emoti-con is a showcase that gathers  groups from high schools who have built projects that advance social good. Some of the projects have already been presented to very prestigious audiences. The students from Baruch College Campus High School worked on Vakway, a vacuum cleaner built and designed to move along the New York City subway tunnels and clean them between subway runs; a great idea, considering how filthy some of those subway tunnels are. Vakway was presented at the 2016 White House Science Fair, where they presented for President Obama.

Possibly my favorite project, admittedly for personal reasons, was by a group of students creating a computer science summer camp for children, called Kinet-X. The presenter spoke at rapid fire speed, but not in an awkward way. He was clear he excited to talk about the project. The summer camp was intended for young students who’s school does not provide computer science programs, or engineering, that lead them to follow academics and career paths that, to put it very simply, are over-saturated as it is. They made a compelling argument that there are more law students in academia than there necessarily need to be, but schools aren’t adequately preparing students to enter the tech and engineering field, which, today, is larger than ever. The kid is still young, yet I see a bright and healthy career for him.

Emoti-Con was being held in the Barton Forum, a large, conference room in the lower level of the library. Upon walking in, the tables were all filled up with young students, and one of the keynote speakers was coming to the end of his presentation. Ramsey Nasser, a game designer who received his M.F.A in Design and Technology from Parsons at the New School, was giving the audience a brief lesson in brainstorming and experimentation. The audience was sitting at tables, which made up a series of groups. He gave each of the groups a long tube balloon, and encouraged the students to play with them, hit each other over the head, if they like, just have fun and develop ideas. After about a minute of playing with the balloons, he calmed them down, and think about what they learned about the balloon, and think about what they can do next to make it more useful.

He was teaching them about how to come up with an idea for a project, and forgetting about whether or not it was a good idea, just come up with an idea, and work with the idea, to see how it works, and work with that idea over time. Have an idea? Try it out. Is it a good idea? A bad idea? It doesn’t matter, it’s an idea. Eventually, if a small team works with an idea over time, it will become a product, a vastly different thing than when it was first conceived as a silly idea. I imagine Facebook was created in a similar fashion.

The final keynote speaker was Lucy Jones, a fashion designer from Wales, 23 years old, and already listed on Forbes 30 Under 30. She spoke about her project at Parsons, which was called Seated Design, which was about making fitted and attractive clothing for people who are disabled and live their lives in a wheel chair. She also provided inspirational words about design, and experimentation.

And that what the showcase was all about, young people experimenting with creative ideas, and working with them until they become something. Soon, they will be our future, changing the world.

Gaming Documentary: Mighty No. 9 Released Alongside the Game

Might No. 9 is a new game by developers Comcept and Inti Creates, and is getting released this week after years of delays and missed deadlines. The game is billed as a spiritual successor to the Mega Man games, where the developers tried hard to recreate the challenge and excitement. It began production after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Reviews are already up on various gaming websites, and the reviews are not good. The game seems to have fallen short on expectations. It’ll be interesting how the reviews affect sales.

However, a short documentary series is being released in conjunction with the game. 2 Player Productions documented the creation process for Might No. 9, and is releasing them as episodes. The first episode was posted on YouTube just a few days ago, subtitled “Episode 1.” There may very well be more in the future.

Check it out:

Pints for the Pixels

Today’s not especially worth talking about. I took the day off in anticipation of an event I’m attending tonight. It’s my first event of being in New York City. It’s an event held by an organization called Freelancer’s Union, and the event is called Spark, and it’s being held at the Impact Hub in Manhattan.

It’s very strange to me seeing an Impact Hub in Manhattan, because I used to see an Impact Hub every single day when I lived in Seattle. I walked past it every day on my way to the internship, and each day I walked by I thought, “huh, look at that, they must be socially conscious.” Well there is one right here in Manhattan, and I’m going to it, in order to see an event.

This actually isn’t my first event that I signed up for at the Impact Hub. There was another one, about a month ago, that I signed up for, and I did travel all the way to the Impact Hub, but I was about 20 minutes late, and at that point, I completely chickened out. I was terribly afraid to walk into the event that was currently in process, and then walking in way late, a completely new face, never seen before, interrupting everyone, who, for all I knew, were all experienced and had been going to these events for some time. They would have looked at me and thought, “gosh, who is this asshole? Walking in like he owned the place, like everything around the world functions entirely at his own leisure, as if life itself is just one big luxurious adventure. Fuck this guy. I hope he has an accident on his bike.” (The latter actually happened.)

So, I left, and went to a bar instead. I drank two beers, and a sandwich. It was all somewhat subpar. Drinking in Seattle and Portland has left me a big spoiled, I feel.



Tough NYC Experiences

Writers Note: Forgive me for the length, this was mostly my attempt at length, narrative driven writing. My personal essay, if you will. This blog will likely be a mix of blog topics, and me telling personal stories. 

Yesterday has certainly been a challenging day in New York City.

The challenge came around when the chain on my new bike popped off suddenly while riding slowly and nothing harshly affecting my bike. I was suddenly forced to sit idly on my bike on the side of Broadway on Tribeca while I stared at disbelief at my bike and wondered how could the chain have possibly broken the way it did. I swore aloud, and I clenched my hands into fists and thrusted them up and down, not paying the slightest attention if anyone was looking towards me, wondering what my problem was, or possibly, what I was on.

I was in the middle of my bike job, and at the moment in the middle of an assignment, which I gleefully contemplated on the time it would take to finish the job and the commission payout that would come my way upon finishing, pushing my earnings for the day further into super success. I was happy and eager to complete the job, I was happy to be in the city, I was happy to work towards success. Then a completely unprecedented and unexpected event occurred that made my job literally impossible to complete, and these powers completely out of my control would simply occur, putting me far behind my goals. The frustration was incredible. I was only one set of bad news from considering my entire trip into the city a complete failure, and I was going to pack up and go back home to the Northwest that day.

That is a thought that I’ve played with from time to time: Leaving New York City. It’s too hard, it’s too much work, and it’s taking a lot of energy out of me just to complete a single day. Take a week, or a month, then my whole body starts to feel like it’s falling apart. Or, even worse, when I start to think about the future and how I plan to accomplish some of those plans I create for myself, which plans sound simple and easy but get complicated quick: Getting my own apartment that’s quite and empty enough to allow me to act professional, or saving up enough money to get into a top-school who has a graduate program which I currently have a place on the wait-list, but the likelihood of me getting in is very week, and even getting myself a new outfit so I cease to look like I don’t have a job or a home, but actually looking like apart of civilization. I thought about the idea of leaving the city and getting away from all this hard work that feels like it’s driving me down and feels at times like it’s not going anywhere, going back to a place what was easy and comfortable, a place that didn’t demand so much from me, but I immediately ignored that thought. Why would I leave? Why would I go to some place more comfortable? It’s that level of comfort that I left in the first place. If I left, then I’m admitting defeat. I’d be reinstating myself into a community where nobody expects much from me at all and that I might as well pursue a career in the food and drink industry in some small time bar in downtown Vancouver, Washington. Besides, I have some big goals with this school I’m trying to get into.

I’ve gotten involved with this school before, taking a class, and they charged me the cost of the class, which at the time, I was unable to pay off completely, and to this day, I owe that debt. I am working hard in this job now to save money for the debt and to secure a place in that program, but I’m also very afraid that when the day eventually comes that I’ll have to work something out and if they accept the money I’ve saved up, then it will drastically set me back in the city. But I’ll have a place in the program. Oh! The thoughts! They’re stretched so far and so thin!

Well, when the bike broke down, I was fortunate to find a bike shop nearby, not too far to walk, to where I took my bike to get its first round of repairs, which was frustrating considering I had used the bike for about a week so far, and the bike I used previously had gone an entire month and a half without needing any repairs. So I got a new chain put on the bike, and fixed the screwed up basket on my bike. I took about two hours out of my day, which was work that was not getting done, money not being made, but I felt a million times better knowing that my bike was suddenly in a much better state of use, and was more useful than it was that morning, and that I could get back to work, and start making my money. Which I did. And I felt good doing it.

But that night, something else happened that put me into even worse states; this time, the inner tube on my bike popped off, sliding from under the rubber tire, off the metal spokes, deflating entirely, and getting wrapped up around the bike chain. It got so tightly wound into the chain that the bike was almost impossible to walk with.

It was another thing that happened, the same day, that happened completely un-prompted incident that happened to my bike, completely unwelcome. How could this happen now? The inner tube? Popped off? Was I mistreating the bike? Did I ride over glass? So many things happening that day that required me to take in my bike for repairs just so I could continue doing this hard work just so I could succeed in this place that would otherwise probably care less if I disappeared. Why did this crap keep happening to my bike? What is going on? Does this bike have a mind of its own? Was the bike designed with these things in mind? Was this another way to squeeze more money out of me?

I was riding along JFK drive, a road built along the east side of Manhattan, where you ride underneath the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge, and you get a good look at the East River. Unfortunately, I was reaching the end of my job, and I had the product sitting in my bike basket. The ride was very long to begin with, and I had already been riding for about 20 minutes with 10 to go, then suddenly my bike tore itself apart on me, and I was forced to walk the rest of the way. It was 9PM, so bike shops were closed. With the inner-tube wrapping itself around the bike chain, the entire wheel froze stuck, and the bike would not move its back tire unless I drug it along the rubber tire that barely hung onto the wheel. I was able to lift the back side of the bike and allow it to roll along with the front tire, but all the time I had to cary the bike, and with the peddles frequently smacking me into the side of my leg, it would have been very challenging.

It took a little while, but I did complete my job, and I apologized profusely, and hopefully presented myself as very apologetic, which I was. I felt terrible. I was angry at the bike, but I felt sad that I was forced to perform terribly, at a time when I wasn’t trying to. I wanted to perform the best I possibly could, even if I was tired, even if it was getting late, even if…

Getting the bike home was a challenge, but I did it, and that part is not interesting. What is interesting is that I was expecting to fork over hundreds of dollars to get my repairs taken care of. I was afraid that half my weeks earnings all would go towards this one stupid bike. To my amazement, I was charged far less than that. I am so grateful that bike shops do not over charge people who might come off like me and come in looking completely desperate and angry. I was very desperate. They could have found any additional bit of work and charged me an additional 30 dollars, and I would have paid it, because I needed a functional bike, and I needed it to work well. Instead, bike professionals take care of the necessary bit, and they do a fine job with the necessary bit, and they charge me an extremely reasonable amount.

Today, my bike is back to normal, and I’m looking forward to putting this bike to use with the repairs that it received. I have good feelings that the bike will not need repairs for… well, say another week. But until then, my time will be well used. I just hope that it stops raining. I’d probably be out with my new bike if the rain just stopped. Dang it all.

The 2nd Part of my Hyper Light Drifter Review, Sort-Of

I managed to complete playing Hyper Light Drifter.

This second play through took only half the time to complete than my first playthrough, which funnily enough, I wasn’t able to play all the way through. I got pretty far in the game, but my own impatience caused me to pass over many required items and elements that are required for the game.

The game is very interesting in the way the players are required to play through the game. Like I said, I passed over a lot of key items, but that was because I did not allow myself to explore the game world as thoroughly as the game would have liked. The game is structured in such a way that it demands the player to patiently walk through each of the games and to pay close attention on the different roads there are paved out. There were various roads in the game that were presented to me early on in the game, but were not accessibly initially, so I walked away and completely ignored them. During my first play through, I willfully ignored them, thinking the path to completion is more readily laid out. Until I got to the end of the game and I was not able to move forward, I had completely forgotten of those unavailable roads, and I would not have remembered them until my second play through, where I was forcing myself to move slowly and paying more attention.

Turns out the game is only about five hours of length, which is great for casual play. It reminds me when I was younger and I used to pick up games on a lazy Sunday and I’d accidentally get sucked into the game. It’s very easy to get engaged with Hyper Light Drifter, the combination of exploring caves and dungeons, and then the rather large fights that the player will find-themselves in (some of these fights turning out to be so tricky that the player will lose and have to re-play these fights numerous times – it can get annoying, but its not deal breaking).

The combat never lost its appeal, and only became more fun as I played the game again. I still managed to find myself in areas that were very challenging for my characters level, and would often lead to defeat, and causing me to play through the level again. Fortunately (and I mentioned this before) recovering from defeat and returning to the challenging area is never so difficult or annoying that the player spends too much time getting over that area. While the death scene and respawn are quick, only taking up about a few seconds at time, the designers to draw them out a little longer than that, just to retain a certain level of drama that the game presents. For me, though, getting defeated did become quite frustrating eventually, since I was eager to finish the game, and each time I died I had to replay an area.

There was one challenge of the game that really challenged me further than I expected to be, and I had to respawn and replay the challenge so many times that the challenge took, maybe, an hour to complete (I could be wrong, but I did replay the area so many times). Towards the end, there was a challenge where the player is expected to fight against a series of enemies that only get stronger and more numerous as the fight goes on. There were a small number of enemies that have never previously been introduced in the game, and had a certain strategy pattern that players were probably not used to. That, and the battlefield itself added to the challenge, half of which was made up of blocks that if the player were to cross those blocks, they would disappear and dropping the player down a bit, eliminating more of their health bar, which would make it even harder to recover in the middle of the fight. Man, that challenge was super hard.

I definitely enjoyed this new play through. Rather than pushing myself to rush through the game to complete it just so I could throw up a half-assed blog post, I was really engaged in the world, and the story that it was presenting. The games story was interesting because it was told through a series of cut-scenes, and there were hardly any spoken characters. There were a few characters that did have speech bubbles, but the bubbles were filled with image panels, all of them required the player to pay attention and interpret them. At first these panels don’t make much sense, but as players finish the game, they make much more sense, and really make the game world that much more dark.

Though the game is a very fun game. It makes use of its 2-D, top down perspective, and the combat and exploration are certainly good call backs to older gaming eras. Certainly from the SNES era, and potentially from the early PS1 era.

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