take hold and appreciate.
5.0 fascination
4.5 significant
4.0 essential
3.5 curiosity
3.0 enjoyable
2.0 elsewhere
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Favorite Games

Thief II: The Metal Age
Thief II: The Metal Age
Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss
Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss
Klonoa: Door to Phantomile
Klonoa: Door to Phantomile


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Played in 2023


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I’ve always found the cover art rather humorous, as it’s game I’ve fervently recommended for many years and people gently assume it’s some spooky old computer game.
What you’ll find here is a richly detailed puzzle platformer, expertly crafted with the ardent care that Konami would devote to their MSX software. The halls are decorated with single-screen head-scratchers, a well established shade of early computer gaming. King’s Valley II seeks to put an end to the madness; a tidy bow on the sub-genre once and for all.
The nuance of these games was always born out of limitation, so from a design perspective, I try to examine what we get out of each tool, obstacle, enemy, and so on from a functional standpoint. If it doesn’t enrich the head-scratching, is it any good? Fortunately, the conceptual mixing pot of King’s Valley II runs quite deep, with each tool forming an adequate base, another layer of the puzzle to chisel away at. You can lock yourself out of a solution, but level sets do often have multiple ways to tackle them. It also goes both ways and means that there’s various ways to proceed or get out of a solution, which is vital. Of course, there are optimal solves, but a lot of the fun is seeing if you can mime your way out of a setback or two. That’s where the magic happens — where the abstract nature of a single-screen puzzler really sinks in. The tools are pushed to their limits, daring you to work with the finer mechanics to decode the games dastardly puzzles.
Around the midway point the levels become quite dazzling, and (as mentioned above), it's not a game with a shortage of challenge. Levels loop in multiple directions, disappearing floors, revolving doors that lock you in or lead you to salvation. Herding enemy patterns. There’s a lot to take in. Even a level editor to fool around with, where you could create and send your levels in to MSX magazines for the chance to win a gold cartridge. Only 20 in existence - all bearing the recipients name - who knows how many are left at this point. We all become consumed by the great pyramid king at the end — maybe the cover art was onto something.
Give it a go and find out if you got what it takes. It’s a puzzling treat.

There was a time when the arcade scene was synonymous with the future. People revelled at the novelty of video games. An endless array of machines lined up, vying for your attention with a splashy attract screen and warm glow. When a new cabinet rolled in — you knew it was the one to try. All heads were buzzing with excitement. Sega was that game maker.
The shock and awe from a deluxe OutRun machine was like nothing else we'd ever experienced. It was a hypnotizing force that pulled all bystanders in. The bustle of the people, surrounded by strangers and friends alike, was an energy to be bottled up for a lifetime. You were just witness to the ride.
Little did we know that OutRun, in all of it’s blue skies glory, would serve as a time capsule to days long gone. In a lot of ways it represents an optimism, the beginning of Japan’s bubble economy. Suzuki and company had found success with earlier games like Space Harrier and Hang-On, but this was their calling card. A game about driving.
It’s also a lesson in simplicity; working with basic mechanics, allowing them to act in unison for a greater whole. How do we create a fulfilling a game about driving? The brilliance of the course selection means every play is worth a dozen. A subtle war is waged between drifting versus gear shift, with the timer acting as a catalyst, creating a constant balancing act between speed and control. It's the do-or-die moments that the game thrives on. As a designer, you ask in an unusual way; will you make it this time?
What truly sets the stage is Hiroshi Kawaguchi’s soundtrack, giving each horizon a clear focus, a way to reason with your trip. “The actual play time to the goal is about 5 minutes, but these songs are not loops of short phrases, but are structured to make full use of the length of about 5 minutes”. As you reach the final leg of your journey, each track swells in pure euphoria. Every race is an event. You’ve made it home. A journey -- a game of a cohesive depth -- all told in the span of 5 minutes.
Left behind, the idealized rendition of everyday life, a vivid picture of carefree days and cerulean skies.
Perhaps they were right — it never needed to be anything more.

Decided to write this as so little information exists about Wonder Trek.
Consider this an informal overview of the game.
You find yourself stranded on an island that's been beset by poachers. Intertwined are little cutscenes and explanations from the animals about how their lives have been impacted - with underlying themes about the preservation of nature. It serves as the connective tissue that strings the game/narrative along, a marker of the kind message for Sony's 1998 Holiday game in Japan.
Was it a success? Not a clue. This was the only game developed by Zest Works and it’s a remarkably strong effort. Very deserving of a wider release.
Playable without a fan translation. Charm is universal and it’s a quirky little-adventure. The story is easy to follow along and it generally follows classic adventure game principles. If you’ve played any P&C or Graphic Adventure game you should have no trouble completing this.
You have an island to explore, animals to rescue and 6 orbs to collect that each have a corresponding statue. Your tent acts as a main hub of sorts and the island is wholly interconnected. There are boss fights and the game has elements of action. Paper Mario fans will find familiarity in game feel; you’ll see it in the animations, jumping and hammer usage. The game has a warm vibe and effortlessly shines — even with the language barrier.
Design Detail
Impression of game design is good-quality. Like I mentioned above, the importance of a central HUB in an adventure game is really key for setting up location memory and ease of getting around. You are rarely lost. Sense of flow is intact. The early to mid game is completely wide open and has that great sense of exploration/adventure. None of the item management is obtuse or roped around inane puzzle solutions. Action is loose and fun; boss fights are actually enjoyable which is a rarity in these kinds of games. A merger of action<=>puzzle is hard to get just right - yet it somehow straddles the line with proper interplay - neither side feeling superfluous.
There’s an additional area after competition of the game detailing the animals you met and their extinction and/or endangerment in the real world. It’s a neat example of appropriately tackling these issues for a younger audience while still delivering on a fun game that doesn’t compromise its design elements.
Rotate the orbs to see their corresponding colors.
Get the key early. You’ll need it to open up important items/locations.
Healing items respawn every so often at your tent.
Use the rare fruit in the maze.
You rarely need to use your partner. They will “respawn” at a nearby location if lost.
Explore everywhere. Pressing circle gives you a wider view of the area.
There are multiple endings! Try rescuing all of the animals.