Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!

In Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack! we get a pretty accurate summary of what to expect from the title of the game; an amorphous alien blob lands on Earth(from Space!) and begins to consume everything in front of it. While it may sound like a pretty simple premise, it works well within its b-movie setting and most importantly, is really fun to play. Mutant Blobs Attack! is a sequel to Drinkbox Studio’s Tales From Space: About a Blob and was initially released back in 2012, and more recently on the Nintendo Switch in May 2019. It is a platform/puzzler set to a 60’s sci-fi b-movie backdrop that made for a delightful game experience. I downloaded the game a few weeks ago while looking on the eShop on my Switch and thought it sounded fun to play. I had a great time playing Guacamelee(finally!) so I was willing to check out what else Drinkbox Studios had to offer. I began playing it several weeks ago as an indie title I could play in small, bite-size chunks to counter the endless hours hunting Korok seeds in Breath of the Wild.

Once you reach the last level, you’ve reached a large enough size to consume buildings and an entire city

As the title suggests, you control a small alien blob making your way through the 6 levels, with each containing four stages. The first level takes place on a college campus, before progressing through the nearby town, a detour to the moon, back to the Badlands, an Army base, and finally a large metropolis. The levels for the most part consist of standard side-scrolling where you navigate the levels while consuming anything smaller than yourself, slowly building in size until you can progress to the next section. This aspect of the Mutant Blobs Attack! is essentially Katamari Damacy as a side-scroller; there’s also numerous puzzles blocking your path that you must overcome by drawing yourself to or pushing away from corresponding objects, as a magnet would be attracted or repelled from another magnet. The “magnetic” objects are colored purple, usually pipes or spinning blades. For example, you press ZL to draw yourself towards an object and you can push yourself away from the same object by pressing ZR. In other levels you will be able to use your ability to propel yourself through the air using…gas(I think?) similar to how a jellyfish will move underwater. There is also several stages that will use a top-down camera as you roll yourself around using gyroscopic controls – like one of those old wooden maze toys where you try to roll the small metal ball to the end. Other puzzles will require you to your psionic ability to move and arrange beams and platforms around to provide access or block taking any damage from red laser beams that will result in your demise should you touch them. This is accomplished by using a standard controller or by utilizing a touch screen if you are playing on Switch or Playstation Vita. There is a message at the beginning of the game that states handheld mode is the recommended way to play the game. I played just about the entire game in handheld mode.

The gameplay and physics work really well, although at one point I was noticing that my movements seemed to be just a split second after I moved the joystick as if there was some screen lag, worse yet, there were a few instances of my character moving slightly BEFORE I had even moved the joystick. However, this seemed to be fixed upon attaching my other set of Joy-Cons to the Switch…only now I’m fearing I may be starting to see some of the infamous “Joy-Con drift” that has been a bit of a concern for Switch owners in the past few months. Nonetheless, the actual controls within the game work really well and the in-game physics seem spot-on.

Earth is doomed!!

The visuals and music in Mutant Blobs Attack! really add to the gameplay experience, the animation style is similar to that of Guacamelee, with the backgrounds and level design that ooze 60’s sci-fi b-movie vibes. I really enjoyed the music as well, an upbeat blend of reverb-drenched surf music sounding like it was recording in the 60’s. The game does a great job of conveying the sights and sounds, along with the goofy charm that seems to exist within Drinkbox games. The ending of the game was also enjoyable as the alien blob has grown such enormous size that it devours the Earth and then entire solar system, this is prompt the in-game achievement – Galaxicide.

Complaints I have for Mutant Blobs Attack! begin with the game’s length, you could easily finish the entire game in one sitting as the levels can be completed in anywhere from two to five minutes. The game does encourage you to go back to previous levels to best your previous score as well as find and rescue two of your companion blobs in each level, so the length isn’t a huge detriment to the game, particularly for the price. As stated earlier, the game is perfect to play when you just want to spend a small amount of time playing and don’t want to start up something you will not gain anything from by playing less than a couple hours. My other complaint is probably more to due with playing it on the Switch, some of the puzzles will require you to use the touch controls to move objects to obscure laser beams or to bridge gaps, but this can be tricky to do while having to press buttons and move the joystick in rather quick succession. You can play the game in docked mode, but this requires you to position yourself close enough to the object you need to move that it is more difficult this way. I imagine the smaller size of the Vita would make for the easiest way to complete these challenges.

The puzzles encourage you to use the touch screen to move the platforms, it’s a little trickier with a controller…

Minor complaints aside, Mutant Blobs Attack! is great fun and is certainly worthy of your time. The setting is interesting and the music adds to the 60’s vibe, I can wholeheartedly recommend this game. Drinkbox Studios has shown to be capable of producing unique indie titles that don’t seem to get the attention they deserve. I will definitely be playing Guacamelee 2 in the near future too!

That’s it for now, I’ve been enjoying playing through an assortment of indie games and writing up a summary about it. The next indie title will most likely be Layers of Fear, another game I’ve been meaning to play for a while. Have you played any games from Drinkbox Studios? Do you have any suggestions for indie games to play? Let me know in the comments below!

Keep on playing…

Ape Out – Going Bananas

This past week I sat down and played Ape Out, a game I had been wanting to play since it was released this past February. I absolutely love playing this game! It’s a vivid, violent, rhythmic smash ’em up that plays like something you could have found years ago in the local arcade but with a 70’s acid jazz kind of vibe to it. A game showcasing video games as an art form. From the second you break out of your cage and begin obliterating the guards watching over you, I knew I was in for an interesting ride.

The objective in Ape Out is simple: make your way from Point A to Point B. The gameplay and controls are simple, but extremely satisfying as you control an APE trying to ESCAPE(NOT to be confused with a PS1 title involving primates 😉 ) from his cage and make your way through the procedurally-generated levels, returning to the wild. As stated, the controls are simple: run, punch, and grab. You are vastly outnumbered by armed guards trying to take you down, and to survive you will need to make an instant decision of simply running past an unsuspecting guard or splattering against the wall. You are able to grab the guards and doors in your way and forcefully propel them at other surrounding enemies; this can also be a critical decision as quickly grabbing an enemy and using them to shield yourself from the barrage of bullets before hurling them at an enemy as if they are being shot out of a cannon…you can even pick up the limbs of the obliterated enemies and throw them at others…I enjoyed this greatly(NOT psycho) 😀

Ape Out is similar to Hotline Miami: utilizing a top-down camera angle, over-the-top stylized violence, and an explosion of colors. In Ape Out however, the top-down camera has been zoomed in, adding an increased sense of caution as you never know who is just around the next corner. There is also an absence of neon lighting and DeLoreans in Ape Out…

The sound design and visuals of this game are one of the more unique characteristics of the game; kind of a Miles Davis 1970’s jazz pastiche that I absolutely freaking love! The graphics are slightly grainy with a warmth around the edges of the characters and objects that exude a visual equivalent of the sound of a vinyl record being played. The colors in the game range from dark, smoky hues of black and gray contrasted by bright bold shades of red or orange. The dynamic contrast in colors is really brought out when you slam a guard into a nearby wall or post and the resulting blood red explosion is a bit like watching fireworks in the night sky. Other levels also shroud the environment in black that is disrupted by only the guards’ flashlights and a few dashes of purple around the level. The entire 3rd album( the game consists of four “albums” which contain eight levels each) – Fugue is washed in a completely crimson and orange backdrop that finds you trying to find your way across a desolate wasteland resembling a napalm-devastated Vietnam battleground. I haven’t even mentioned the music yet…the music in Ape Out is phenomenal! Each level or ALBUM rather, is set to a riveting drum solo whose rhythm mirrors yours as you progress through the level and even accents your very movements. You running down an empty hallway is accompanied by a steady snare drum roll while every time you pummel an enemy the music will add a cymbal crash, along with anytime you break through a wall; this adds a very stylish rhythmic element to the gameplay that is an absolute blast to play.

There are four main “albums” to play through in the game – Subject 4, High Rise, Fugue, Adrift – with four levels making up Side A and Side B respectively. Subject 4 begins kicks off your quest for freedom by escaping from research facility with the first couple levels serving as a tutorial of sorts as you get adjusted to moving around as a gigantic primate. High Rise takes place in a 32-story office building; making your way from stairwell to stairwell through a labyrinth of closets and cubicles before making a mad dash to the exit from the crowded lobby at the bottom. Fugue is a bit more difficult as the “album cover” would imply with a picture of a lit match – fire and lots of it. You cross what appears to be shipping warehouses full of oil drums that if anything OR anyone is driven into them with the force of an angry gorilla it will cause them to burst into a giant ball of flames; a new enemy brandishing a flamethrower pack is also introduced at this time. Fugue is probably the most memorable( and most difficult) level as the latter half( Side B) takes place outdoors in a scorched area surrounded by wire fence while firebombs are being dropped from the sky. The orange and red colors of the levels along with the stark snare drum march seemed to be a bit of an allusion to the Vietnam War. I couldn’t help but think of Lt. Kilgore of Apocalypse Now during this – “I love the smell of napalm in the morning…” The final album – Adrift takes place on a freight tanker on the open seas where you navigate your way through around the levels of the tanker before finally making your way to freedom.

After clearing each of the four albums you can choose the option to now play the game on Harder difficulty; there is also Arcade Mode where you can try to rack up the highest score possible while clearing the levels in the least amount of time and deaths. I enjoyed this game so much that once I cleared the albums I turned around and started the play through them again, this time striving for shorter completion time and fewer deaths. There are no exact same runs through the levels, as the paths through the maze-like levels as well as enemy placement are all procedurally-generated; you thought that same enemy with the explosives was just around the corner only to find out THIS time it’s several enemies with shotguns or none at all…at least until you round the next corner. Every time you take a hit, you will leave a trail of blood behind you for the guards to follow; after three hits you’re dead and will have to start the level over again.

Every time you die, the camera zooms out to show your path taken and progress made through the level.

Violence, jazz, and apes….awesome, right? Ape Out is available on PC and Switch and is a fantastic game that I very highly recommend to anyone looking for something a little bit different to play. Finally…justice for Harambe! 😀

What games have you been playing recently or what games are you most looking forward to hearing about at E3 this week? I plan on putting up another post with my thoughts about all the upcoming announcements after E3.

Keep on playing…

Coffee Crisis – A balanced roast of retro gaming

I thought it would be interesting this weekend to pick up a random indie game on my Switch without knowing really anything about it and write my thoughts about it. In looking through the Switch Online Store, which I believe could use a bit more organization as it seems daunting to look through page after page of titles without there being much for filter options…but I digress. I found the game Coffee Crisis which was developed by Mega Cat Studios and published by Qubic Games. The game appeared to be a bit of a retro throwback to all the 16-bit side scrolling beat-em-up games that I played as a kid on the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo. It also happens to involve metal music, retro games, and as the title would suggest….coffee.

I have fond memories of playing beat-em-ups like the Streets of Rage, Final Fight, and Golden Axe games; everything about this game fits right in with these games. I enjoyed the aspect of playing a game so reminiscent of the previously mentioned early-90’s titles. Mega Cat Studios I discovered, even produced an authentic Homebrew version of the game on cartridge with case and manual to play on Sega Mega Drive/Genesis that you can purchase on their website.

The story is set on Smurglians – a race of aliens who’s entire planet runs on the energy generated from coffee, metal music and WiFi( that’s right!) and have set their sights on planet Earth’s most precious resources. You play as either Nick or Ashley, two metalhead baristas at the Black Forge Coffee House who are not going to sit idly by and let this travesty occur as you fight your way through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh.

Walloping the elderly to save the metal…

The gameplay is pretty standard as far as beat-em-ups go; you progress through multiple levels with the occasional mini-boss appearing every several levels until finally making your way to the boss at the end of the game, which I was mildly disappointed in the abrupt not-quite-an-ending of the game, it more or less just….stops. The length of the game overall I was satisfied with, being roughly the same length as others of the genre. My criticisms of the game are pretty mild, as I any drawbacks to the game are the same that you would hear of games like Streets of Rage. For better or worse, Coffee Crisis is authentic to a fault with negative attributes that are commonplace in games like it. You screen position is difficult to keep track of when multiple enemies attack and you get “Caught In A Mosh”( couldn’t resist!). There is also the annoying abundance of enemies who can shoot projectiles at you or simply have “weapons” such as a lasso or a cane…yes, among the enemies you fight off are humans that have been taken control of by the Smurglians. These can be range from random looking “dude bros”, to western looking…uh…cowgirls, to I guess….the elderly? You fight your way through the streets of Pittsburgh drinking coffee, listening to metal, and pummeling old men and women that attack you with canes and walkers. There is also an array of Smurglians to fight from purple aliens sporting mohawks to tuxedo-clad aliens in wheelchairs who can shoot “mental projectiles” at you ( Professor X as a Smurglian). The game in premise alone is not any danger of taking itself seriously, I ALMOST felt like I shouldn’t have been enjoyed this developing chaos as much as I did. My other critique is also all too common in games such as this where, you have a powerful special move at your disposal HOWERVER, using it costs you a small portion of your health. The game is not an easy game, as it was clearly intended to be played in “couch co-op” with another player alongside you.

I still feel these negatives don’t overly hinder any enjoyment to be had playing Coffee Crisis, I had a blast playing this game. The soundtrack to the game is excellent as well, with tracks being provided by Pittsburgh area metal band Greywolf. There is also a couple small cameos from retro-gaming YouTubers Metal Jesus Rocks and Alpha Omega Sin. Mega Cat Studios clearly shows a lot of love for the 16-bit beat-em-ups of yesteryear and I very heartily recommend to anyone looking for an entertaining indie game to play, it’s got coffee, retro games, and metal, hell yeah!

I thought these dudes looked familiar….

Side Note: Coffee Crisis is currently available for LESS than the price of a coffee house brew at $1.99, a GREAT DEAL until May 27th. https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/coffee-crisis-switch/

For anyone else who would like to purchase a physical cartridge version to play on Sega… https://megacatstudios.com/collections/16-bit/products/coffee-crisis-sega-genesis

Keep on playing…

Catching Up On Games – Guacamelee!

One of the problems that come along with having a wide interest in different game genres is – You simply don’t have time to play them all. Some games for one reason or another end up being put in the back log and you have to come back to them at a later time(sometimes much later…). I just recently had the chance to play through Guacamelee! the incredibly fun to play metroidvania style action platformer made by Drinkbox Studios. Guacamelee! was first released on the Playstation 3 and the Playstation Vita in April of 2013 and is currently available on just about every gaming platform. I’m embarrassed it took me this long getting around to it.

Players control Juan, an agave farmer living in rural Mexico. Juan is called to the local town after receiving word that his former flame and daughter of El Presidente – Lupita has been abducted by the evil Carlos Calaca. Juan dons the mask of the mystical Luchador and sets out to save Lupita, learning new abilities along the way. The backdrop is set with traditional Mexican culture and folklore as the events of the game are set during Dia de los Muertos(Day of the Dead). The visuals are colorful and make this game as satisfying to look at as to play. One of the favorite touches is right before you fight one of the game’s bosses such as the Trio of Death (a three headed skeleton armed with mariachi instruments) or the aptly named Flame Face (armed with a pistol and tequila bottle) there is a colorful billboard showing “Juan Vs. Flame Face!” that flashes before the screen adding to the Mexican wrestling vibe.

Guacamelee! is a metroidvania style side scrolling action game that isn’t completely non-linear, but leaves ample room to backtrack and explore the different levels. You come across “Choozo Statues” which from the name right down to the appearance are a nod to the Metroid influence of this game. You learn different move and abilities such as a double-jump, a destructive headbutt, or my favorite – Pollo Power! which allows you to switch back and forth to a chicken inside an egg( an allusion to your Morph Ball upgrade in the Metroid games). There is also the really interesting game mechanic where you gain the ability to switch between the plane of the living or the dead, which adds complexity to the puzzles and combat with the game. The combat of the game is much deeper than I would have guessed with move lists much more extensive than the majority of indie games like this.

The “Choozo Statues” should look oddly familiar to Metroid fans…

The game has many nods to vintage games, but don’t take this as merely a “cover version” of a Metroid game, Guacamelee! is it’s very own unique game. I played the Super Turbo Championship Edition of the game on my Switch, which this edition of the game would suggest a reference to previous Street Fighter 2 titles( Super, Turbo, and Champion). I am making an effort to get caught up on more of these indie titles that I haven’t gotten to play yet, and the Switch is the perfect place to play them. I sadly admit I still have to finish the last level of Shovel Knight as well as pick back up where I left off in Hollow Knight and Journey. Guacamelee! 2 was also released back in October 2018. I very heartily recommend Guacamelee! to anyone, I assume I’m not the only one who hadn’t played it yet.