The 'Shroom:Issue XCVIII/Critic Corner
What am I doing with my life aaargh
Oh also FunkyK38 (talk) is now a writer for our lovely sub-team, writing Book Reviews on a bi-monthly basis because she loves being a helpful little waffle. Aside from that, everything else is roughly the same, but we’ve got ourselves a decent line-up of sections this month for you! But hey, if you want to write reviews or opinion pieces or what have you, check out the sign up page now! I welcome anyone that actually has some talent and substance behind their ego.
Section of the Month
There were only two sections last month, but the turnout was still incredible and I love you all for caring so much to vote! Y’all are lovely, and I may give all my readers and writers a hard time, but you guys really keep my ego running!
Anyway, the winner of last month’s SOTM is Yoshi876 (talk) with his Character Review of the Totally Original character Gold Mario, with a whopping total of 17 votes. Second place was yours truly for my Crocodile Style Review indie double-up of Darkest Dungeon and Hand of Fate, with 7 votes.
Anyway, thank again, and don’t forget to vote at the bottom of the page for this month’s Section of the Month!
Non-Mario Game Reviews
Today I review one of the saddest characters from the entire Mario franchise, and no the reason he's the one of the saddest characters is not because in his artwork it looks like he's farting. Instead it's down to the fact that Fracktail is essentially a good guy, until he gets corrupted and Mario goes all Babe Ruth on his ass and kills the poor bloke. And I swear talking things through is the message we're meant to be taught.
Fracktail is the first boss of Super Paper Mario, so as is to be expected the game's core mechanic, flipping, is utilized and the way it was utilized was flipping pointless: use it to jump on Fracktail's back (which totally couldn't be done from a 2D perspective), and then throw random shite at his head whilst on his back. Or, you could also jump on his head until he died, which again could easily have been done from a 2D perspective, seeing as that's its main boss hallmark.
However, despite a completely lacking fight, Fracktail's actual character makes up for it. For starters he's a freaking robotic dragon, a mix-up between medieval fantasy and sci-fi, otherwise known as a geek's wet dream. He also has some of the best dialogue within the whole game; it really plays off his robotic origins. He openly references Zelda, Windows and Mario's moustache, okay not all of the dialogue is golden, but the majority is. He even connects to the internet, although in all honesty I'm calling bullshit on that, if I can't get a decent connection in some remote village no way can he get one all the way out in the desert.
I actually quite like Fracktail as a character, yes his boss fight is as dull as a beige room with a side-hint of grey, and good-guy gone bad due to villain interfering is one of the biggest clichés in the book, but his fun dialogue and complete embracement of his technological side makes him fun to listen to, until you put him six feet under.
Hey look, I'm writing Fangame Reviews again! It's a surefire sign that I've run out of ideas. I would talk about the recently released (if a month ago counts as "recently") Toadette Strikes by Thunder Dragon, the guy that did Psycho Waluigi (fantastic game go play it now), but I haven't played it yet for some stupid reason. Instead, I'll talk about Mega Man fangames!
Before I move on to the main course, I'll talk about two other fangames for a short while. Remember Mega Man: Revenge of the Fallen? I actually beat it. It was hell. Let's just say you're not missing much if you decided not to play it. The main stages are filled with tons of bad level design and the Wily stages (of which there are 8) are a snoozefest. The final boss was pretty fun, though. The Wily Capsule this time around summons shadows of past Robot Masters that attack you in pairs. The fight is incredibly fun, surprisingly, and there are a lot of different pairs that can show up.
Next is Mega Man Eternal. This came out last December and has received a lot of flak, and for good reason. I tried one stage, Illusion Man, and all I can say is that the game is practically unplayable. The controls are utterly screwed up beyond all belief. The jump height is weird, and you have absolutely no post-damage invincibility. Or, there is some, except the knockback is so huge and lasts for so long that it lasts for the entirety of your invincibility time. Just got knocked into spikes by an enemy? You won't survive. I can say one good thing about this game though - the soundtrack is really good. However, just because the soundtrack is good doesn't motivate me to try this more, especially when the creator is an eccentric asshole.
The main game I'll be talking about today is Mega Man DONGS, a fangame created by Something Awful users Robot Goat and Dectilon. It's been stuck as a demo with the 8 robot masters for I believe more than two years now, but it's a fun experience nonetheless. Especially when it has a nonsensical cast of Robot Masters - Spike Man, Speedrun Man, Iceburn Man, Hack Man, Oyster Man, Bright Man, Punch Donkey, and Mega Manatee. Each stage is well-designed and presents new ideas. For example, in Iceburn Man's stage, you can take a fire pill that makes you immune to fire, or an ice pill that makes you immune to ice. The stage uses the gimmick to its fullest extent, even on the boss. Speedrun Man's stage's gimmick is that you have to get to the finish line of the area before you go over the par time, and if you go over the par time you actually just have to restart the section instead of dying. Even Spike Man's stage is pretty fun - most of the spikes here are decorative.
There are a lot of little nice things in the game as well. You can enable infinite lives in the options menu to ease the difficulty. There's a nice choice in music for a lot of the levels from a variety of non-Mega Man game. The one issue I have with this game is that most of the weapons are pretty useless. Power Glove, Punch Donkey's weapon, is pretty nice because you can pick up enemies and throw them at other enemies. Super Slam, Speedrun Man's weapon, gives you invincibility frames and does a ton of damage as it pierces enemies, and creates shockwaves when you land. $#@%$$#% or whatever you want to call Hack Man's weapon is neat, as it can let you phase around the screen, flip gravity, and reset your falling speed, but it takes a lot of energy. Burning Ice (Iceburn Man) and Rude Arm (Oyster Man) are pretty mediocre, as they're pretty much standard buster replacements. The rest are pretty garbage. Aqua Blaster has incredibly short range, Phasing Spheres is far too gimmicky and takes too much energy, and Grab Bag is garbage - it summons random Mega Man weapons, except the pool of weapons includes all the shitty ones plus Top Spin.
Overall, Dongs is pretty enjoyable if you can tolerate the high difficulty. It's one of the harder fangames to find as well, because you have to go to the Hard Games thread on Something Awful when their paywall is down. Don't download Eternal. Revenge of the Fallen ends up being pretty "meh", and if you can tolerate its high difficulty as well, give it a go. See you next time.
Crocodile Style Reviews
I may as well be open; I am a massive masochist, and wow do I love it. Not in a bonds and gag kind of way, physical pain to me is like water to a kitten and I’d sooner throw my mother under a bus than endure even the slightest prickle on my finger; no, I mean I’m a masochist for video games. I’ll break my fingers trying to play Expert on Guitar Hero III; I’ll subject myself to torrents of abuse from the world’s loudest babies in Dota 2; and of course the champion of self-loathing punishment, the Dark Souls games. These are games which, like a sinister chessmaster lording over his hapless opponent, force you to learn the intricate rules of play or die in a pathetic flailing heap. So here we are; From Software have yet to disappoint me with their fully erect dick up my lubed bumhole, and so now they give us another taste in their new release, Bloodborne.
The game takes place in the city of Yharnam, a Victorian-style city with horrendous OHS compliance and something about a plague turning people into werewolves or whatever. You are put into the role of a customisable hunter who sets out to kill the beasts for undisclosed reasons, although I like to imagine a beast pissed on their lawn once and so they now swear unholy revenge against all things furry. Actually it’s implied the actual reason is that you’re sick, as Yharnam is also home to an apparent elixir in the form of blood which is so much a part of the city’s culture that they even fucking drink the stuff because that makes sense. Who the hell founded this town, Dexter Morgan?
Gameplay-wise, Bloodborne feels very much like its predecessors, as it has the same hack and slash gameplay mixed with a levelling system to boost your stats to best suit your particular style of play, but there are some notable changes. Stats are streamlined, reducing the vast amount of attributes you could pool into in favour of a choice six that determine your durability, sustain, heavy or light physical prowess, firearm prowess, and magical ability. Another notable alteration is that while the combat of Dark Souls was very methodical, very deliberate, focussed on carefully dancing with your opponent for the right time to strike, and while this does still ring true to some extent for Bloodborne, what also rings true is that Bloodborne is fucking bonkers.
You are not equipped with a shield to push the groupies away from you, leaving you very vulnerable outside a dodge roll, and while your movements and attacks are far swifter than the Souls games, the same law applies to enemies, so it becomes less of a ballet and more a krump. You’re equipped with a right-handed melee weapon and a left-handed firearm of your choosing, initially of fairly limited range but your arsenal grows as you progress; me, I stuck with the walking cane sword that turns into a whip because hell yeah . Enemies drop Blood Echoes when they die, functionally similar to the Souls of previous iterations as they behave as the catch-all currency through which you level up, purchase items, or upgrade your equipment, and everytime you die to an enemy, they’ll pickpocket your coats and drop your Echoes all over the ground. You’re able to reclaim them provided you can reach your death spot again without dying, a particularly gruelling exercise if the next checkpoint was only barely in your sights before having your eyeballs gouged out, not helped by the new mechanic giving nearby enemies a chance to pick up the echoes, typically the strongest of the assholes lurking around the area just to completely piss you off.
In opposed to Dark Souls which was filled with NPCs that couldn’t wait to tell you their life story, characters in Bloodborne are decidedly less talkative, leaving the narrative deliberately sparse and vague so as to encourage personal interpretation. It does match the atmosphere of the game quite nicely given you’re an outsider who knows next to nothing about what’s going on, but that’s all dependent on whether you feel a game’s narrative needs to be knitted together perfectly like auntie’s Christmas sweaters, or if piecing through every bit of flavour text to draw some obscure meaning out of all the walking foetus’ is its own agonising reward. Even so, what isn’t vague is still typically very morbid, such as the frightened young girl who asks you to find her parents after they went missing during the hunt. Given I projected a backstory onto my character of a tragic widowed mother desperately trying to find a cure for her sick child, I like to imagine that in an ideal world my character would adopt the young girl and set off into the sunset in valiant triumph. But alas happy endings are for brothels, so I ended up killing her father and driving her to suicide. Christ! Was Harlan Ellison on the writing team for this game?
Going back to the gameplay, Bloodborne has made me realise two things about myself - first, I may secretly be Otherkin; and second, I have a horrid sense of direction. My reflexes and aggression in combat allowed me to kill several bosses on my first try, and the way I dove right into fights without observing my surroundings and somehow getting out of them alive has struck fear in my brother’s eyes, and now he can never look at me the same way again. But buggered if I know where anything in this bloody game is, as even finding a ladder in front of my own face was a challenge for me because apparently I am a limp mole. With katanas. I want to blame it on the game being insanely dark, but truth is I’m defying the dungeon master yet again by not observing my surroundings, a crime punishable by hordes of angry snakes shoving themselves up my arse.
Actually, I did get fucked over a fair few times from my inability to explore worth a damn. I recall one instance of my trying to sneak up to these big sasquatch buggers that throw rocks at you to get myself an easy crit on him, only to be instakilled by another one of them further up the line throwing an even bigger rock at me. Like, rude, to be honest. The games challenges scale very well as you progress, starting you out with paranoid neckbeards in a rundown township and squealing wolfmen, but then you go to a cultist college at about the half way point and things get… weird. As you gain Insight for finding and fighting bosses – the stat required to play the online features of the game – you begin seeing the more cosmic side of the game, taking heavy cues from the Lovecraftian mythos, and you start finding yourself up against centipedes that shoot fireballs and bulbous monsters that make your brain explode just by looking at you. I’m serious, those guys can piss off.
Bloodborne is a wonderfully crafted game, and while it may be shorter than its predecessor, it’s filled to the brim with content as it is, between the main story, the optional levels and boss fights, the dungeon crawling sidequests, and of course the online functionality which allows you to spend your Insight points to either assist another player or make their day a living hell. I love the highly aggressive gameplay that allows for a different style of play over Dark Souls, I adore its world building and atmosphere (even if the story could stand to be a little less oblique), and it deserves commendation for being one of the few games to do Lovecraftian horror correctly. Give it a go if you hate yourself, or otherwise you can just go back to playing Elder Scrolls Online and remind yourself why you swore off meaningful human contact in the first place.
Hello, all, it’s nice to see you in a place that isn’t my usual place! What a change! …Anyways, to explain, I’ve been considering writing a new section for a little while now, so this is where I take the plunge and talk about something I’m really passionate about: books! If I do stay in this position, I hope to write about a wide variety of written works, from novels to classics and maybe even a graphic novel or two, who knows?
Thus, I humbly offer up to you a review of my favorite book series, The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy, by William Boniface!
I think I first found this series at the library when I was in middle school. I’d seen the first one on the shelves often, but I never thought to pick it up and read it. Upon doing so, however, I realized what a fool I had been to never read it before! I was hooked, and I’ve been in love with this trilogy ever since.
Ordinary Boy isn’t a heavy read at all, due to both its standing in pre-teen/young adult fiction and its fast-paced plots. I’ll offer you a warning right here: in each book, there will be a point where they are impossible to put down. I’ve been late to work before because I was reading these books, this is how much they hold you in! If you’re a serious reader, like I am, these won’t take you long to finish, but please don’t let that deter you from reading them!
Our story begins with a young boy named Ordinary Boy, if the title wasn’t enough of a clue. He lives in a city where everyone has a superpower, whether that’s invincibility, flight, the power to grow mold, some of them are more useful than others, obviously. But, our hero is an outsider: he doesn’t have any powers at all, hence his name. The books chronicle his adventures through his not-so-ordinary life, and they are amazing adventures, I promise. I won’t give any spoilers, because spoiling these books would be like spoiling the story of a Professor Layton game.
Plot-wise, these books are fantastic. Each of them has a puzzle for Ordinary Boy to solve with his friends, and the solutions they come up with are fantastic to read about. They keep you guessing until the end, especially in the case of the third book. I think the reason why no one really hears about them is because there’s not a whole lot of deep, dark angst in the plots like you see a lot of in this genre. Ordinary Boy is a pretty chill guy, one that you’ll probably relate to on a lot of places. The writing feels like the happy brainchild of J.K. Rowling and Lemony Snicket- full of emotion that you can really feel and appreciate, with some snark there to surprise you. Whether you’re facepalming at something one of the heroes says or rolling your eyes at the shenanigans of some of the villains, the story never feels boring.
My favorite part about this series is how tightly connected these books are to one another. I’m not talking about how the second book acknowledges that ‘X major plot point happened in book 1 and so forth,’ I’m talking about how book 1 very subtly drops hints about major plot points in the second and third books, and vice-versa. On your first read, you might not catch them, but after that, when you catch them, it’s amazing. Very rarely does the story present a situation where it’s conveying information that’s ‘pointless’ for future situations, and to see the connections the author places within the stories is so refreshing. If you like to deconstruct the plot of a story and find hidden meanings in what you read, these are the books for you.
Although they lack the heft and drama of titles like Game of Thrones or The Hunger Games, the series is like a grab bag of everything else. Superheroes! Adventure! Mystery! Take your pick, they’re there (but if you’re looking for romance, you’re not gonna find it here)! Each book comes with a map of the city, Superopolis, and my general experience with books that come with maps has been very positive. Did I mention that they’re illustrated, too? A book with substance, and pictures? What sorcery is this?
All in all, the Ordinary Boy series is my favorite for a reason. You can scoff and call them ‘kiddie books’ if you want to, but the writing is better than a lot of other true YA novels I’ve read and the plots are fabulously Layton-esque for those who adore details. This series is one you should not miss out on, and if you ever get the chance, seize it and read them! You won’t regret it.
That’s all for me this time! I have to go browse my library for what to read next!
|The 'Shroom XCVIII|
|Staff sections||Opening Statement|
|The 'Shroom Spotlight|
|Sub-teams||Fake News • Fun Stuff • Palette Swap • Pipe Plaza • Critic Corner• Strategy Wing|
|Main sections||Retro Feature • Mario Calendar|
|Specials||Pokémon (Gen 6) 2015 Tournament|