Early Impressions

Early Impressions: Adventures of Pip

Adventures of Pip shirt from Tic Toc Games

Adventures of Pip shirt from Tic Toc Games

PAX South came and went. It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget. One game out of the hundreds that were there left a good early impression on me: Adventures of Pip.

Adventures of Pip is a Kickstarter game made by Tic Toc Studios. The game centers itself on nostalgia, which is not a bad thing. We have Shovel Knight that reminded us what it was like to play as Scrooge McDuck again, we have Broken Age that takes a point-and-click adventure game to the next level with two protagonists, and Amplitude which is the successor to the first Amplitude released back in 2003.

Pip’s Three Forms via Kickstarter

Adventures of Pip is a side-scrolling action platforming game with a twist: a character that can evolve/devolve. There are a lot of inspiring games within the Adventures of Pip such as the Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, and even the Legend of Zelda. The story is very basic, where a princess gets stolen by an evildoer and she must be rescued. However, the gameplay is what makes this game stick out from other indie games out there.

The Demo

I was surprised to see the game I backed on Kickstarter at PAX South. On the last day of the convention, I gave the demo a try. The Adventures of Pip demo was short, but that did not take away from my experience. The controls were solid. The running and jumping mechanics responded well with the Playstation 4 (PS4) controller (this was also the first time I ever used a PS4 controller). Since the expo was so loud, I could not hear much of the music or sound effects.

Pip as Gif via Kickstarter

The Gameplay

Pip has three EVO forms: 1-pixel, 8-bit and 16-bit. Pip can traverse tiny hallways and jump on creatures that can carry him across spikes when he is 1-pixel. Also, this tiny, red pixel can jump higher than the other forms. While in this form, Pip is very responsive and easy to control.

1-Pixel Pip via Kickstarter

Pip’s 8-bit-self was my favorite of the three forms. 8-bit Pip has the agility of a gazelle and can wall jump like Samus. He also has a short jab, but I did not use it in the demo since the enemies were sparse. There was a tiny problem with this form; Pip attached to walls like scotch tape. I spoke with the publisher, Shereef Morse, about this problem and he assured me that it will be fixed by their next demo at PAX East.

8-Bit Pip via Kickstarter

Pip’s final form is powerful with all his 16-bits. He is a bulky, tough and wields a champions sword. Pip can slice through bricks, push over blocks and destroy enemies with ease. During the demo, there were not many chances to play as this powerful form. After watching many videos (and gifs) and demos of 16-bit Pip, it is easy to tell that he will need to evolve into this form to take out the most powerful adversaries.

16-Bit Pip via Kickstarter

The Environment

After watching the demo played by other PAX participants, the environment never ceased to amaze me. The colors and detail in textures made the demo ‘pop.’ There are not many games that fully capture an environment like this (unless your name is Shovel Knight). There were hidden areas within the demo with chests and villagers aplenty.

Part of PAX South Demo via Gamers in Beta

The demo was based on a portion of the game within a Temple. The mechanics of the game were easy to pick up from the start. For example, the demo taught me how to jump on enemies heads to reach higher areas. If I jumped on enemies heads that had a blue glow, it would give Pip the power to evolve/devolve. Thankfully, if I accidentally jumped on their head and missed a secret area, they would respawn later (I am not sure if that was for demo purposes or that is a game mechanic).

Near the end of the demo, I felt anxious and excited. Walls were closing from all around and I had to run as fast as I could. If blue blocks were in the way, I had to evolve/devolve to break them. There were walls that were too high, so I had to evolve/devolve into my 8-bit self and wall-jump as fast as I could. The ceiling and ground level were about to flatten me into no pixel Pip, but was able to evolve/devolve into 1-pixel Pip to fit inside a narrow space from harm. This entire scenario is what made this stick out from side-scrollers without time limits. Adventures of Pip could be one of my favorite indies this year based on this demo alone.

Pimping Pip Art via Nintendo News

Conclusions

Overall, Adventures of Pip has great ideas, amazing controls, and needs little tweaks. Each time I would pass by the booth, two people were always playing with smiles on their faces. I remember hearing from onlookers the phrase, “Awe, he’s so cute.” And I mean, look at him! That tiny, 1-pixel Pip is cute. I have a good feeling about this game and cannot wait to see the final results later this year. Adventures of Pip releases in May 2015 for the PC, Mac, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Wait, who is this Pip? via Amazon

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Early Impressions: Invisible, Inc.

Invisible, Inc. Logo

Invisible, Inc. is a turn-based stealth game where you are in control of a group of lethal, high tech spies capable of hacking anything. The game features randomly generated levels of all sizes, “permadeath,” turn-based strategy, and an active security system. You have 72 hours to build up your arsenal before your final mission. Can you bring your A-Team?

The A-Team via Hulu and IGN

The A-Team via Hulu and IGN

Klei Entertainment released Invisible, Inc. on PC as an early access game. Early access games are the new craze in the video game industry, which are early builds of the game where update after update comes out before the full release. Steam explains it best:

Get immediate access to games that are being developed with the community’s involvement.These are games that evolve as you play them, as you give feedback, and as the developers update and add content.

I am not a fan of early access games, but after watching one of my favorite YouTube channels, Northernlion, play the game, I decided to give Invisible, Inc. a try.

Pick Your Team

Before starting the first mission, you must choose your two-person team. Each character has the same set of skills, but some skills are more useful than others. The key differences between the characters are the items they carry, and their abilities. Choosing characters that work well together is the best way to complete your missions. The first two characters that are readily available are Deckard and Internationale.

Deckard and Internationale via Indie Game Insider

Deckard looks like your typical “cloak and dagger” detective (movie reference, not comic). He has a long face and wears a brown fedora and a dashing trench coat that makes it look as if he hovers off the ground when it moves around. He carries a taser and an invisible cloak. The taser is great for knocking out enemies for a limited number of turns, but it has to cool down after it is used. The invisible cloak is great to use when you are about to be caught, but you can only use it before an enemy sees you. Deckard has a stealth ability which gives him more movement points. Moving around in the level is important, but there are some more useful abilities from other agents, like Internationale’s “wireless interface” ability.

Internationale reminds me of a character from an old noir film, but with huge headphones over her ears. She is the hacking phenom in the game thus far. Like Deckard, she has a taser, but nothing else; her ability makes up for not having a second item. Internationale’s “wireless interface” ability allows her to interact with electronics from a distance, even through walls. This ability compliments Deckard’s enhanced movement, which makes the two of them a great starting team.

Based on my limited time playing Invisible, Inc., I found that there are two other unlockable characters to choose from. The first character unlocked is Shalem 11. This tall-looking, suit-wearing, hair-slicked-back professional is equipped with a rifle and larger inventory. He is also equipped with a taser, like most of the characters.

Shalem 11’s Complete Arsenal via Klei Forum

Banks is the other unlockable character in Invisible, Inc. She looks very similar to Deckard, sans-fedora. Not many people who play the Early Access unlock her since she is the last character to unlock and the game can be cruel at times (the difficulty was turned down in the second update though). Banks can bypass any red security doors and holds a unique tranquilizer that knocks out guards for longer periods of time.

Note: I highly recommend anyone trying this game out for the first time to dabble in the tutorial first before actually playing the story mode.

Stealth is Your Friend

Stay Out of Sight via Inc Gamers

When you first start a mission, you are always in a room with your other agent. It is good to plan where you want to go first before opening any doors. I usually split my characters up so I can cover all the rooms before the security level gets too high. The security level rises with each turn, killed guard, virus, camera, etc. There are tons of things that can go wrong to make this game increase in difficulty.

Before walking through any door, peek first. The peek option is very reliable and will save you a ton of hassle later on. By peeking, you can set up easy ways to knock out guards with your taser, find out if they are patrolling or stationed, and even spot hard to find cameras.

It is worth noting that you do have a limited number of AP (Action Points). Once you move a certain number of spaces, use a weapon or even peek through a door, you lose an action point for every little thing; you use no AP for hacking.

What a Hack

Hacking is one key to victory. You must use PWR (power) to hack any devices. To gain more PWR, there are terminals around the mission you can hack which can be done by closely standing next to one or using Internationale’s skill which can hack terminals from a distance (you do not need to use PWR to hack terminals); some skills may also help you gain PWR as well. When you obtain enough PWR, you can hack nearly everything in the mission.

The Red Can Be Hacked via Steam

Before you can hack anything, you must find or see those devices first. Cameras are the first things I like to hack because if you are seen by one, the security level rises and guards know where to find you. You can also find camera terminals to hack, which show you the location of all the cameras in the entire level. After you hack a camera, you can also see the entire room the camera is overlooking.

The third thing I like to hack is the safe. Each mission usually has one or two safes. Some big, some small, but all will give you something of value. Most of the time, you will obtain credits to help purchase more items, ammunition, and upgrades.

When I say there are a ton of things to hack, I mean it. Cameras and safes are the two most common, but you will also find turrets, motion sensors, robots and even security lasers. The possibilities are seemingly endless, but remember your PWR. Once it is all gone, it is not easy to find.

Drone Hack and Kill by Kotaku

Your Mission

The large mission map gives you tons of places to visit. Invisible, Inc. gives you an idea of each mission, but most are random. The main things you need to focus on are the time it takes you to get to that mission, and how well guarded it is.

Mission Map via Steam

Time plays a big factor with missions. The typical mission lasts 5 hours, so if it takes 9 hours to travel to a mission, you may only have time to do 3 missions in one day. Remember, you have 72 hours until your final mission. Each mission that leads up to your last mission prepares your characters with greater resources and upgrades. I like to pick the missions with the lowest travel times, and I try to ignore the guarded situations.

However, when you first start out, I advise that you choose the least guarded missions each time to get a better hang of the game. As you progress, it becomes unavoidable to choose from the most guarded missions. Developing your skills, purchasing useful items and maintaining you sanity will help you succeed in late game.

Jackpot via Indie DB

Conclusions

Even though this game is in early access, it has a lot of potential. If you are a fan of turned-based strategy games like X-COM, you will love this game. It is not as easy as X-COM, but it is easy to master once you get the hang of it.

I will leave you with a video from Northernlion, who inspired me to pick up this wonderful stealth game. Also, it is worth noting that I beat the first build of the game where there was no difficulty choice. I had to play it as is, and it was harder than most games should be. I am currently playing it on easy, and it is still difficult at times. Gamers can expect a challenge from this gem.

Early Impressions: The Destiny Beta

The Destiny Beta by Destiny Wikia

Since its release for the Xbox One, I have played the new Destiny Beta at every opportunity because I am still unsure if it is worth buying. You would think that after Bungie created one of my favorite video game series of all time, Halo, that I would trust their creativity and upcoming video games, but that is not the case with Destiny. After over eight hours of playtime, I still harbor some doubts. I wanted to share my positive and negative opinions about Destiny. Again, this is only the beta.

Destiny functions like an Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) video game and gives nods to some of the great games that have come before it. Bungie can deny this all they want, but I intend to present evidence to prove this otherwise. Destiny is being compared to other video games, but that is not necessarily troublesome. Before I start, you need to know a little background about the Destiny beta. There are currently two places where you can explore: the Tower and Earth. The Tower is a wonderful “one-stop-shop” for all your needs, while all of your missions play out on Earth. Additionally, there was a special event that included one more mission available on the Moon for two hours on July 26 which added more gameplay.

Halo Easter Egg by Halo Wikia

The Halo Feeling

This game looks and acts like the Halo franchise that put Bungie on the map. The aesthetics are incredible. I love the environments and character visualizations. I do wish that we were able to see our face without a helmet when we travel to Earth, but that is not my primary concern. The problem is that I view Destiny as Halo, and I do not think I am supposed to do that. There are too many similarities that make it hard to differentiate the two. On one hand, Destiny has the potential to become as successful as the Halo franchise, but, in my opinion, this could be far out of its “Reach” (Halo pun intended). I understand that Bungie has said that this game is not Halo, but the striking resemblances imply otherwise. While playing the beta, I noticed one weapon that reminds me of Halo: the shotgun. (Not that it is a bad thing, since the shotgun in Halo was brilliant.)

Call of Duty and Borderlands Livelihood

Like it or not, Destiny gameplay reminds me of Call of Duty, while the exploration, loot and weaponry remind me of Borderlands. First, take a look at this clip that I captured from the beta:

See anything similar to Call of Duty? If I wanted to, I could literally play this game like the Call of Duty franchise where I aim down my sights too often, wait for enemies to appear and either hold down the trigger or shoot in bursts. Call of Duty did not invent this type of gameplay, but with the weapon sights in Destiny, it reminds me a lot like Call of Duty. Hopefully, this will not be the only way I play since the powers in Destiny are pretty great.

For my next clip, watch how easy it is to pick off some of these enemies:

This is me nitpicking, but it does still bother me. I remember when I played Borderlands and pulled off easy kills like this. It was not a major problem, but it did get boring after awhile. I could say the same thing about Halo, but that game was not based on the characters level. Destiny and Borderlands have the same mechanics that end up being mundane after hours of playing. In all honesty, Destiny is what I wanted Borderlands to become, but that did not happen. Instead of considering Destiny at face value, I feel the need to compare the two, which could make it difficult for me to purchase this game.

Loot, Loot and More Loot

The loot in Destiny reminds me of Borderlands, but instead, I would rather compare it to the Diablo franchise. I love loot. It is addicting and fun. When I was exploring in Destiny for fun and finding chests, I was fascinated. I never knew what I would find. Because this is the beta, most of the players are still a low level, so most of the weapons, armor and loot were unusable, but it was still fun. I like how the game will have normal, uncommon and rare items. Also, I had to identify some loot at the Tower before the stats for the loot were revealed to me, like how it is in Diablo, which makes the loot even more of a mystery. One thing that was upsetting about the Destiny beta was the fact I cannot trade loot with another player, but I read online they are working on making this a possibility.

A Loot Chest in Destiny by IGN

More Optimism

I absolutely love the Hover Bikes. Here is a clip of me driving one around “Earth”:

It is fast and very easy to control. Plus, I hated all the running I had to do in Borderlands. Once the “Moon” was open on the Destiny beta, I was able to try out the other Hover Bike that had weaponry. I really hope there are more types of bikes because it is really fun and useful to move around so easily. The Tower is another great area. Instead of doing everything in menus, I had a place where I set up shop to purchase new items and ships, identify loot, dye my armor, and more. It takes a little getting used to, but overall, I like this. Another thing I am excited about is some of the weapons. For instance, the Semi-Auto Rifle feels great and shoots incredibly well from a long distances, but my favorite weapon is the Fusion gun. This thing packs a punch and can disintegrate enemies. The first time I used it, I was amazed. Here is a clip of me using the Fusion gun:

Negativity for Nancy

This is not deal breaker, but I felt like the character customization was lacking. Compared to the insanely detailed customization available in Wildstar, I realize how limited I was when creating my Warlock in Destiny. I made a pretty cool cat (he looks just like Cable from the comics), but I wish I could have done more. Another troubling aspect of the Destiny beta was the incredibly slow loading time between missions and going to the Tower. Load times need to be fixed by launch. I am sure they will not be as long as they were in the beta, but really, waiting for a level to load usually took a few minutes which threw off the pacing. The troubles do not end here…

Character Customization in the Destiny beta by She Attack

Questing like World of Warcraft

One scary thought came to my mind: Destiny is just like World of Warcraft. The questing upon questing could easily overshadow any interest I have in my other games, which does not make this game very appealing to me. I am not a fan of MMOs and never have been keen on the endless questing. If I was to buy this game, I would lose interest quickly like I did with World of Warcraft. However, if MMOs are your favorite style of game, then the Destiny beta might be right for you.

Call Me Guardian

My biggest issue with this game is being a nobody in the wide world of Destiny. I was called a “Guardian.” Everyone in the entire game is called a “Guardian.” I want a name. At least in Halo, I was called Chief or Master Chief which made me feel like someone important. In Destiny, I feel so disconnected from my character that there is nothing to distinguish me from any of the other players. One of the best parts about playing an MMO is being an individual with a real connection to the character, and Non-Playing Characters (NPCs) call players by their screen name. I would be happy even if they made me choose from a list of names, but I feel like “Guardian” is just a title and my character is just a character. I have no attachment like I did in other games similar to Destiny.

My Warlock from Destiny Beta

My Warlock from Destiny Beta

Conclusions

I believe this game will be a big deal when it releases, but it may not be right for me. It has lots of positives, but I am still on the fence. There are some great things that this game hits, however it misses opportunities for me. I will say this, if you set up attacks, they make for some really amazing scenes and excellent gameplay. I will leave you with one more clip that made me really want to buy this game. When you get into firefights like the one I show below, the game feels refreshing and fun. Bungie is creating a Destiny that I might want to be a part of.