Josh’s Favorite Games of 2022:Adventure

It’s time to talk about my favorite games that made me ponder while I was pointing (and clicking).

Honorable Mention Sucker For Love

I’m pretty sure everyone forgot that this game even came out this year. What started as a project for a Dread X Collection, transformed into its own visual/novel meets adventure game. The premise alone is enough to turn heads — as you try to romance three very eligible women who just so happen to be elder gods who can tear apart the fabric of reality.

This is a game that fully commits to its premise, and while it’s not the hardest game in the genre, the complete package stands out as one of the most strangely charming games I’ve played. I don’t know if we’ll get a sequel to it, but it’s an overall great title.

#3 Lucy Dreaming

Lucy Dreaming harkens back to the golden age of Lucasarts-styled adventure games, with its own verb list and wacky logic. Combining the waking and dream world sections did lead to some interesting puzzles. While it can be on the harder side due to its structure and logic, it is definitely a must-play for any fan of old-school adventure games.

#2: The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow

Adventure games oftentimes either land on the side of challenging puzzles or focus more on the story and mood. With the Excavation of Hob’s Barrow, we have one that does both — a gothic horror point and click adventure with some very striking cutscenes. The game, at times, feels like an episode to one of the many anthology horror shows in the past, as the player explores a mysterious village, has creepy visions and dreams, all leading up to the surprising ending. The puzzle difficulty stays on the easier side until the very end, with the final chapter being the most puzzle-filled out of anything else.

I really like the charm and the story of this one, with the world feeling both familiar and alien at the same time. If you slept on this one, and in the mood for a mysterious adventure, then don’t miss this game.

#1: Brok the Investigator

Brok the Investigator manages to combine beat-em-up gameplay with point and click adventuring and puzzle solving to deliver one of the most original takes on the adventure genre. You are free to approach your problems by using your brain or your fists, with the story and ending changing based on your process.

The story itself is also very well done, and despite featuring a goofy talking alligator, there is a lot of heart to this game. Brok is trying to do right by his adoptive son, earn a living, and the push and pull between doing the right thing, and to keep going is an interesting one. This is one of those games I know a lot of people slept on, but this one gets my recommendation as a game worth playing.

Josh’s Favorite Games of 2022 – Action Games

I’m doing my best of 2022 series over on Game-Wisdom and I’ll be posting the videos over here, starting with my favorite action games.

PC Gamer’s Article on a WoW Ultra Rare Mount

It’s December 31st and our offices are empty for the end of the year. We’re kind of slacking off, so let me link to something out intrepid and gelatinous news reporter linked before. It’s a really great longform article from PC Gamer and is worth a look if you didn’t see it then.

Someone’s looking grumpy!

In summary:

For a long long while, there have been ultrarare mounts in World of Warcraft. Most items, a 1% drop rate is as rare as they go, but a few mounts are generated much more rarely than that. People have spent years grinding for a specific mount and never gotten it. It was dropped by a world boss called “The Sha of Anger.” (Hey, I didn’t name it.)

One such ultrarare item is The Reins of the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent, which allows the very lucky acquirer to summon a nifty glowing black-and-white flying dragon to ride. So popular, and rare, are these items that when they go up on auction they regularly go for the maximum supported price: 9,999,999 Gold.

Players had long rued the immensely high odds of acquiring this item, and others, but had put up with it because Blizzard was the kind of company to just rule things like that to happen, and what you gonna do? Go to City of Heroes?

Early in the item’s existence, however, players noticed that the item wasn’t just generating hardly ever, but in fact, entirely never. A bug in the game meant no one had gotten it. It was just so rare that everyone assumed they just hadn’t seen it yet. Oops!

Much more recently, however, due to another bug, the item became much more common to players of a certain race. The players who had discovered this faced conundrum: be responsible and report the bug to Blizzard, or hoard the knowledge to prevent Blizzard from knowing about it, keeping it off of forums as long as they could, which resulted in the greater player base not realizing it was possible, in order to allow the precious loophole to persist for as long as possible.

If this kind of thing is fascinating to you, and if it isn’t then I wonder why you’re reading this blog, it’s one of the best pieces of game reporting I’ve seen lately.

PC Gamer: How World of Warcraft’s new dragon race brought a 10-year-old loot system to its knees

The Castlevaia Scroll Glitch

Castlevania is an old and much-examined game, but its world records have been moving again lately, due to the use of a very interesting glitch that takes advantage of the way it updates its screen in the invisible area outside the display’s area. The above video demonstrates this to remove a lengthy walking section from the fifth “block” of the game, and explains how it was done too. What follows is a text re-explanation of some of it.

Most NES games don’t update the display all at once, but take advantage of the fact that the system has a whole screen’s worth of area outside of the visible region to draw tiles into before they become visible. The NES doesn’t allow direct writing to PPU memory, so there’s only a small window of time in each frame in which screen tiles can be changed anyway.

Castlevania uses a system where, on specific frames, a block is drawn on the side of the screen the player is moving towards, in sequence, starting from the top and moving down on successive frames. It does this seven times, and repeatedly, for each column of tiles the player is moving towards.

However, it doesn’t reset the vertical column progress if the player changes direction! If the player instead moves backwards a small amount at a specific place, it’ll update the column on the other side of the screen instead, leaving the old data in the column the player had been moving towards.

Since multiple redundant passes are made, the player has to do this two or three times as they progress. It’s exacting, but if done correctly, they can cause arbitrary blocks of tiles to be left on-screen from whatever had been in video memory before.

When the player’s character climbs stairs, the game watches for ground tiles as a signal to exit climbing mode and resume walking. If there is no ground there, because it was never drawn there because of this glitch, then the character will continue climbing, up through the air, even through screen transitions, even through floors, until they reach the next bit of ground they can stand on.

Here’s the Reddit post that marked the first time this glitch was done in a non-TAS record. And here’s a Youtube video demonstrating its use in the last level to remove the wall that requires the player to descend into bird-and-fleaman hell before reaching the final door.

Romhack Thursday: Super Mario World Coin Chaos

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

You could consider the act of creating a romhack to, itself, have difficulty levels.

The easiest kind of hack to make, usually, is the simple graphic hack. Most game engines don’t really care what its characters look like, it just tells the hardware where in memory to get the data to display the game objects. If you only change the graphics, the rest of the program is none the wiser. That’s why there were so many dumb visual hacks in the early days of romhacking.

Up one level of difficulty is the level edit. These can be pretty hard if unaided, but many games these days have bespoke map editors. Many classic-era games don’t store their area data internally as tilemaps, meaning it’s not quite true that you can change game levels to just anything, and many of these programs are not simple to learn or use, but it beats finding and editing pointers directly out of the game’s binary code.

A fairly difficult thing to do is to modify the game’s engine itself. Platformer engines are complex mechanisms, especially back in the days when they had to be highly optimized in order to leave time in each frame for other necessary game logic. Many Game Genie codes modify engine operation, but many of those same codes make the game glitchy and prone to crash. Especially if the modifications involve the creation of additional game states, that not only must interface with the rest of the game’s code without breaking things, but must also have room found for them inside a typically crowded game program.

Super Mario World Coin Chaos, by Jp32, doesn’t change the engine much, but makes them count. A few of them:

  • Mario has unlimited lives, which isn’t an uncommon change for a hack like this.
  • Mario’s health isn’t determined by his powerup state. 1Up Mushrooms have been repurposes to add a hit point, up to five. Powerups affect his abilities but don’t give him any extra hits.
  • Fire Flowers grant a limited number of fireball shots. One level, Frozen, starts Mario out with them, and offer additional shots.
  • While underwater, holding down Y allows rapid swimming, as if Mario were holding an item.
  • The level Automatic is an autoscroller, but with a twist: Mario doesn’t have free travel throughout the screen, but moves forward automatically at walking speed.
  • The level Climb grants Mario a wall jump! Like many game wall jumps, it’s hard to get used to, and requires tricky timing.
  • Yoshi can fly forever, but Mario takes damage as usual while riding him.

The biggest change, though, is that instead of trying to reach a goal, Mario is trying to collect coins by whatever means he can. When he gets his 99th coin the level immediately ends.

In difficulty, the game isn’t Kaizo-hard, but it heats up rapidly. The first level is about as hard as a later Super Mario World level, and it gets tougher from there. There are two tracks of levels and the player can progress along either, but both are pretty tricky. I’ve gotten about two-thirds the way through so far, so if there’s any objectionable content after that point, well, mea culpa.

The variety of themes and how they affect the 99-coin objective make this a hack not to miss. It’s not very long in number of levels, but there’s a lot of challenge here waiting for you. Good luck!

SMW Coin Chaos (by Jp32)

News 12/28/22: ASCII Dwarves, eShop Shutdowns, Ecco the Dolphin

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

Computer issues kept me from filing last week’s report. That is the reason. It is not true that I got so drunk at a Globmas Party that my chemical composition was 50% alcohol. Don’t listen to those rumors! Let us begin.

Image from PCGamesN

Dwarf Fortress’ Steam Edition is still the toast of the gaming blogoglobe! A recent update lets you use the original version’s ASCII graphics instead of the high-falutin’ new pixel art skin. So proclaimeth Ian Boudreau at PCGamesN!

It’s funny. Corbin Davenport writes an article at How-To Geek titled Atari’s New Gaming Console Isn’t Dead Yet. But it’s URL is: Don’t you love how URL slugs can reveal a piece’s working title? The article itself is more about how it’s mostly dead, so someone call Miracle Max.

Gavin Lane at NintendoLife discusses the upcoming shutdown of the 3DS and WiiU eShops. You haven’t been able to add funds for a while through the stores, although you could still add them using the Switch’s shop then use that money to buy there. The piece mentions that Nintendo has been almost anxious to close the shops, due to poor sales of the WiiU. You’ll still be able to download purchased software… for a while.

Also at NintendoLife, Liam Doolan interviews a couple of people at Wayforward about River City Girls 2! It turns out that planning began almost immediately after RCG1 wrapped up.

Tom Ivan. Video Games Chronicle. Microsoft and Activision have filed responses to the FTC complaint about their merger being anti-competitive. Creatures of my species are capable of merging together into one blobby whole, which is admittedly quite fun on a boring Saturday night, but none of us are corporations that control massive segments of the console gaming market!

Related, Jezz Corden of Windows Central reports that Microsoft is claiming that Sony’s influence will prevent four specific games from ever reaching the Xbox console platform: Final Fantasy VII Remake, Final Fantasy 16 (shouldn’t that be XVI?), Silent Hill 2 Remake, and Bloodborne.

And finally, at The Ringer, M.D. Rodrigues writes a long piece about the legacy of the Sega Genesis Ecco the Dolphin games.

Game Storybundle with Set Side B Content

Ten substantial books for $20! Worth a look! And say, who are those handsome creatures fourth over on the top row?

Hello! This is a rare bit of self-promotion on the blog here, one of the books in the Chili Game Book Storybundle is a collection of content from the first seven months of Set Side B! It’s $20 for all of them.

We’re still searching for ways to make our weird little bloggy thing profitable. A Patreon might be in out future (not as a condition of blog access though). One thing that can help us out is sales through this bundle, which also has a bunch of other stuff in it that you may like:

From blogfriend David Craddock, there’s Gamedev Stories volumes 1 and 2. Kurt Kalata and the excellent Hardcore Gaming 101 provide a couple of sorely-needed guides to Indie Retro Games.

From Kristopher Landis, there’s Quest for the Dragon Star, a book about an obscure but hugely interesting TV show from the era of Power Rangers. Dan Amrich’s Critical Path is about breaking into game reviewing for a living-I should look into that myself!

Nathaniel Hohl’s Scare Tactics is about real-world connections with eleven horror game franchises. Project Dolphin by Travis Nicholas is on the history of the Nintendo Gamecube, one of the most underrated game consoles of all time. And Brian Riggsbee’s Video Game Maps maps out 250 NES and Famicom games, celebrating the art of game mapping as it goes back to game guides and magazines from decades past!

The bundle ends tomorrow, so please consider snapping this up while you can! I tend to let my ebooks premiere in Storybundle, and only sometimes make them available afterward on my page, so it might be your only chance to get my collection in ebook form!

The Chili Game Book Storybundle (EPUB and Mobi, $20)

The Digital Antiquarian on the Infocom Z-Machine

The Digital Antiquarian‘s website contains a wealth of information, but rather than let my works get too gummed up in describing it all right now, here’s is one page from 2012, on the creation of ZIL, the Zork Implementation Language, and the virtual machine that runs it, the Z-Machine.

When we left off last time, Marc Blank and Joel Berez were considering how to bring Zork to the microcomputer. Really, they were trying to solve three interrelated problems. At the risk of being pedantic, let me lay out them for you:

1. How to get Zork, a massive game that consumed 1 MB of memory on the PDP-10, onto their chosen minimum microcomputer system, an Apple II or TRS-80 with 32 K of RAM and a single floppy-disk drive.

2. How to do so in a portable way that would make it as painless as possible to move Zork not only to the Apple II and TRS-80 but also, if all went well, to many more current and future mutually incompatible platforms.

3. How to use the existing MDL source code to Zork as the basis for the new microcomputer version, rather than having to start all over again and implement the game from scratch in some new environment.

The Digital Antiquarian

The Digital Antiquarian: ZIL and the Z-Machine

It’s Zelda Day! (What is Zelda Day?)

Back in 2010, over on Metafilter, three posts on The Legend of Zelda went up on the same day, on the day after Christmas, December 26th. Since then, I’ve tried to commemorate the event by making a post there about The Legend of Zelda each year. I typically tag these posts with “zeldaday,” to make them easier to find.

Since we have Set Side B now, I figured I’d crosspost the main content of this year’s Zelda Day post here as well. Here it is!

GameSpot has a long series of interesting discoveries of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild:

This is just the first video….

48 things you still didn’t know21 more31 more than that29 on top of thoseand then still 28 moreand 30 additionalfollowed by another 33and then 27after that 25then, 26and 19and 20and 22and 18and 23and another 24and then, 16then ANOTHER 16then 12then 15, and then, finally 14 — as of this writing, that is. That’s 497 things in all, over nearly three hours! Here’s their playlist with the whole series.

The Youtube channel Looygi Bros. has done a couple of similar series, covering Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask:

15 cool things about Ocarina of Time10 morethen 13then another 13then 19then 7then 11then 11 morethen 10 after thatthen 10and then 13. Then, later, another 10, another 8, yet another 10, and then 9, and 9, and 8, and at last another 8.

But there’s more, on Majora’s Mask! 11 cool things about Majora’s Maskand then 10and then 9and then another 10then yet another 10and another 10 againand another 10 once moreand 9and 7and 7 againthen 6, then 15, then 7, then 10, and then finally 7.

And now, a new series has started on the Wind Waker, with one video so far and 12 facts. Here is a playlist with all of them. All together, I count that’s 841 facts of Zelda esoterica to watch. I figure that’ll keep you going until Zelda Day 2023!

Sundry Sunday: Christmas Nights Into Dreams

The Sega Saturn was one of the first consoles to feature a built-in real-time clock. Most systems now have one, so I’m kind of surprised that very few games make use of it. Animal Crossing does, sure, and some Pokemon titles have time-of-day features (which they had to include their own clocks in the cartridge hardware to support), but few other games bother reading the date.

One prominent example of a game that did was the Christmas demo version of Nights Into Dreams. Ordinarily just a single-level of the full game, the disk had a number of special modes that would crop up at different times. December was one of them, which triggered Christmas Nights mode, with special cutscenes and graphics. But it also had special events for playing during November or January (“Winter Nights”), New Year’s Day, and April Fools’ Day. Especially notable was an unlockable mode that allowed playing as Sonic the Hedgehog, in what is his first true 3D outing!

This video shows off all of Christmas Nights Into Dreams’ special modes, and you don’t have to fiddle with your computer’s clock to see them!

Xmas Lemmings 1991

It’s the holidays and we’re trying to make low effort posts for now, so let’s just watch a playthrough of the first Christmas Lemmings disk, released in 1991.

Psygnosis released several of these as free pass-around demos. This one is of the MS-DOS version, and is only about 19 minutes in total. Enjoy the festive yuletide peril!