Kavalmaja by Tonypa

I recently finished Kavalmaja by Tonypa. It’s an puzzle-adventure game that I first played about a year and a half ago. I had probably spent 30 minutes with the game, getting deeply involved with it. Something interrupted me and got sidetracked and never went back to it. It was bugging me that I never finished it — so I did. And it was worth it.

The game of Kavalmaja is a well thought out dungeon. The goal is to collect all of the “gold pieces” in the dungeon, acquiring abilities along the way to progress further along in your journey. The game is presented in an abstract fashion, requiring you to move around and touch stuff to see how it reacts. As you interact with the world you learn what its symbols and colors mean. So an area you passed through earlier will have a different meaning later on. It ends up playing similar to a Zelda game but there’s something special about its abstract nature. In a Zelda game it’s clear that if there’s a cracked wall you need a bomb to get through it, the world of Kavalmaja the connections aren’t that obvious.

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So Chris surprised the hell out of me yesterday when he mentioned that there was an independent games festival going on right down the street from me in Culver City — Indiecade ’09. His friend told him about it and he told me. I was feeling kind of down that I wasn’t out raving in the streets of San Francisco this weekend, but I suppose things happen for a reason. I missed Saturday but I checked it out today.

Moon Stories
I Wish I Were the Moon by Daniel Benmergui

I didn’t get the opportunity to see everything but the favorite thing that I played was Moon Stories by Daniel Benmergui of Argentina. This is a series a 3 games, which are more like interactive stories. I could spend a paragraph trying to explain it or you can just play the damn thing. I liked that I could just jump in an play around and that the game didn’t expect anything from me. I had fun messing around just to see what would happen. This is really how game stories need to be told more often. Continue Reading…

Grand Theft Auto IV is a game about living the American dream. You work hard to make money to get the things you want. You meet people and exchange favors for favors in pursuit of a better life for yourself and those you care for. Hard work will eventually payoff and you can fight your way to the top in this country. Eating your enemies along the way. The difference from the traditional interpretation of the American dream is that in GTA IV you’ve decided on a life of crime to make it all happen. Which is against the norm and deemed a bad thing in most cultures. I suppose it may be unfortunate that it makes such an unbelievably awesome experience.

This game is unbelievable to me not only because of the violence or deviancy — for if that were all there was to it then the series would’ve been long forgotten about. What’s unbelievable is the grand scale of it. And not only that but the level of polish that every element has. It’s really amazing! Earlier in the series there were a lot of obvious flaws to complain about, like the sucky control or the subpar graphics. It seems that having a solid foundation of gameplay, an incredibly talented team, great management, and a shitload of cash can result in a masterpiece like GTA IV. I almost didn’t think it was possible to have a big-budget game this good anymore after the disappointment of Halo 3 and the absolute tragedy that was Assassin’s Creed.

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I spent much of today beating 2 flash games. I like the sound of that: beating flash games. Not just playing them but beating them, because there is enough in the games to play that when you’re done you can actually say the games are beaten.

Dino Run: I found this beauty c/o the blog over at indiegames.com and I was very impressed with PixelJam‘s work. I’d label it under the Sonic the Hedgehog genre of games, one I’d like to play more of. It’s a full game with a lot to play with. The look and feel is nice, some of the physics are a tad weak, but they do the job and beat the norm. I love the tension, the atmosphere of fleeing. It would be excellent setting for a simple story because the nature of a chase is that it is linear. Not to say that stories must be linear, but game-stories tend to be (due to laziness). Unfortunately, the game is lacking in the story department, but it’s alright because it does well everywhere else. GO PLAY IT.

Warlords: I was linked to this piece from Ben Olding after playing Dino Run and was really surprised by such a simple design adds up to strategy on multiple levels. It’s not only about unit selection, but timing, and tactics as well. Again, the game has tons built into it: multiple races and unit types, unlockable races and unit types, leveling-up, a filled out campaign mode and the unit purchasing/upgrading system really gives players a place to craft a style of play. It’s all very simple, but the game is much more than the sum of its parts. PLAY THIS ONE TOO.

As a bonus, each of these games has a form of multiplayer. Dino Run is actual online play and Warlords allows 2 people to play on the same keyboard. Both options are pretty cool if you ask me.

Man, it’s nice to find good games.

-Christopher J. Rock

While you were too busy playing GTAIV, Nintendo launched the “Nintendo Channel” for the Wii. As per usual Wii owners can download the new channel for free from the online shop. With it, you can stream videos of game previews or (as is the case for WiiFit) interviews with developers. You can also download game demos for your Nintendo DS and of course Nintendo has given us the power to volunteer market information. Continue Reading…


You have to understand that I can rarely complete a conversation on games without bringing up the Contra series, and most importantly, Contra III: Alien Wars. I played the previous big Contra games when I was a kid and had fun with them, but when Contra III showed up, it exploded my brain. You have to understand this if you hope to imagine the excitement I felt when Contra 4 was announced for the Nintendo DS.

Needless to say, I’ve played the game and it’s great . . . but I have my complaints. Continue Reading…

Suggested Reading

Books are the most rich source of information and inspiration that game players don’t use. If you’re looking for some new resources, you may be interested in a short list that I’ve compiled. Each one is worth its own review and maybe someday I’ll do just that.

These books are guaranteed to give players a greater appreciation of their games and help developers make better ones. Continue Reading…

Faxanadu might be one of the best games you’ll never play.

  • Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Developer: Falcom
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Release: November 16th, 1989

“I’ve been on a long journey. I came back to my home town to
find it is almost deserted. The gate is closed, people are gone, and
the walls are crumbling. I wonder what happened?”

You’re a worn warrior returning to your home of Eolis, a village just outside of the World Tree. You have nothing but the ragged clothes on your back. You discover that the home you return to is not how you remember it. The lakes have dried up and it has become a monster-infested wasteland.

Sounds like the beginning of a grand adventure to me.

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Continuing my coverage of the Wii, I must today discuss the “Check Mii Out Channel.” I’m happy to announce that the first Mii contest is finally over and this, ladies and gentlemen, is my award; a souvenir photo:

Check Mii Out - Hatless Mario

You may notice, I went for a more classical approach. He is based on the original Mario, with small pixel eyes and an open mouth.

I assumed everyone was going to make Marios that looked the same, and so I made one that was more individualistic. I was only half right. While voting, I saw hundreds of Marios that generally looked nothing like Mario or were strange spins on him. The top 50 winners though were basically identical, which is somewhat disappointing. My Mario was in the “7th level.” I’m not quite sure what that means, but I was shown an animation of Mario running up a Fuji-esque mountain and he stopped near the snowcapped top, so I’m happy with that.

For those of you that haven’t heard, this channel allows online Wii owners to upload their miis for public viewing and judgment. You can view public miis with a random “grab bag,” by popularity, or by searching for a specific type of or individual mii. That’s pretty cool, but the real fun is in the contests.

Nintendo is hosting contests on this channel that ask players to design miis to a given theme. The first worldwide contest asked for “Mario without his hat.” After that we saw “A Pilgrim from the first Thanksgiving,” “The Tooth Fairy,” and “Cleopatra” as national contests in the US. I understand that in Europe, instead of the pilgrim contest, players were asked to produce “King Arthur.” Continue Reading…

Advance Guardian Heroes Box

I was excited when this game was announced. A sequel to one of my favorite games. Treasure LogoAnd Treasure never makes sequels. If you’re not familiar with the work of Treasure, I wrote some impressions on their title Radiant Silvergun a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately this wasn’t the kind of sequel I was expecting. This game retains many of the fundamental qualities that made the first one so great but it’s missing something. Soul. And that’s ironic because the ridiculous storyline in the game revolves around your character being possessed by the souls of the heroes from the first game.

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