Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Jester's Top 5 Wii U Games for 2015

December ending signals everything from Christmas cheer to New Year's parties and even more than that. it mean top five and top ten lists.  So why not kick things off with my picks for top 5 Wii U games of 2015!!!

Okay, yeah, it's going to be mainly centered around Wii U, but that's how it goes when you only have one current gen system. Trust me though, if you don't already have a Wii U system, these are the games that should make you rush out and grab one immediately.

#5:  Runbow

As soon as I turned the game on, from the music alone, I knew the design team had gotten things right. It was fast, it was energetic, and it promised a rollicking good time--and Runbow absolutely delivers. Fantastic music, energetic game-play, and a satisfying and solid online experience are just the starting highlights of Runbow. I've been a fan of the runner genre since the Bit.Trip series, and any time a variation or new entry into this genre pops up, I have to give it a try.  Some I've liked, some I've hated, but Runbow I absolutely love.

You run along in a mad dash to get to the end of the level before your opponents. Fall behind or into a trap and you're out.  But the traps and pits aren't the only hazard.  As you run along, a swoop of varying colors fills the screen, altering the landscape in its wake. Jumping across a pit via orange blocks just as a swoop of orange fills the screen? Those blocks get lost in the background and your character drops to his death.

With an absolutely huge cast of characters to choose from (you can race as Shovel Knight!), more characters to unlock, and a host of downloadable characters across various properties; you aren't limited to the luchador looking fellow from the main screen art.  I haven't even covered Behemoth play; which is the near endless challenge mode that sees how long you play/race for before you tap out. If you find yourself liking a racing challenge but don't want the typical kart or car to zoom along in, then this game is the game for you.

Whether you're into runner games or not, this game is a must have from the eShop, that's about as simple as I can put it.

#4:  Yoshi's Woolly World

Pretty much everything about Yoshi's Woolly World I can sum up in the following way:

With dozens of Yoshis to find, numerous worlds to explore for hours on end, and hundreds upon hundreds of things to collect; Yoshi's Woolly World offers a fantastic blend of cheer and chagrin. The mechanics of gobbling enemies and popping (pooping?) out eggs is a familiar one by now.  Even hitting a smiling block to get the instructions on how to fire eggs and ground pound feel like a visit from an old friend.  Another "old friend" that pays a visit is the encouragement of a little OCD (Obsessive Completion Disorder). 

I found myself trying levels again and again just to 100% them levels even after beating them and getting all the yarn spools needed to assemble the Yoshi hidden in any particular level.  Miss a flower?  Better play again and find it! Take a few hits mid-level? Better try harder to not get hit next time.  But despite needing to start over and over again, I never once got to the point that I didn't want to try again. "Yoshi" has peppy music, great control, and an addictive quality about it that had me losing hours.  

For an adorable game about exploring a world of yarn and fluff, Yoshi's Woolly World has a nice mixture of making you grin happily at the sweetness of it all sometimes while at the same time making you want to scream in frustration as you get oh-so-close to getting 100% completion...only to take a bit of damage at the last second and end with a 99%.  You won't leave swearing though. After all, that might hurt the Yoshis' feelings.

#3:  Fatal Frame Maiden of Dark Water

I was never a fan of the Resident Evil series.  I've tried time and time again to get into it,and never really have. So when I heard that Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water was coming out, this time to the Wii U, I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to try it out, as I had come to the conclusion that survival horror just wasn't my thing.  However, when I found out that you could try the first level/story arc for free, I figured I may as well give it a shot.  I am so, so glad I did.

Fatal Frame boasts  a wonderfully unsettling atmosphere, great story-line, ambient music that doesn't over-sell the creep factor, and jump-scares that feel legitimately terrifying rather than a cheap way of startling you. Ordinarily I don't like getting scared from a game, but in Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water's case I'll make an exception because it's so beautifully done. It deftly uses the Wii U pad in a way that few other games do.  I loved using the pad as a camera in order to exorcise ghosts. I loved the sense of dread that crept over me as I explored the mist ridden forest. I loved knowing that as my character was getting wetter and wetter from the falling rain I was more likely to be attacked by spirits--and there was nothing I could do about it except prepare to "fight" them with my camera.  

If you're like me and not really a fan of the horror genre, perhaps Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water was the game you were waiting for all this time and just didn't know it.  For a game in a genre I don't normally like to even rank on a list with me is an accomplishment, let alone the #3 spot over cute and cuddly Yoshis. I want to play this game more. I want to see how the story ends, even if it means having to fight against my own fear to do so.

#2:  Mario Maker

Minecraft, Shmimecraft--gimme Super Mario Maker!  Seriously though, what can I say about this sandbox game that everyone else on the planet hasn't already said?  If you ever thought you could do better designing a Mario level, or thought you had a great idea for one, or just wondered how funny it would be to face off against two Bowsers at the end of a level--this game was made for you. 

You are the master game-level designer as you don't so much just play the game as you design it.  One of the great things about the game is that it doesn't just throw you into the thick of it by giving you all available options once you start up.  You can't just start slapping together that level with double Bowsers.  You have to earn extra icons, power ups, enemies, and other items by putting in the time and you earn them as you progress and design levels with the basic tools given at the start.  Herein lies a great deal of the genius of the game. It teaches you how to create the levels by limiting you, forcing you to get the basics of game level design before progressing with more complicated elements.  I always loved a well designed level in the Super Mario Bros. franchise, and getting the opportunity to design my own level makes me appreciate those levels all the more.  

Little wonder that this game has been winning awards left and right.  Takashi Tezuka, Mario series co-creator himself was even surprised at the level of creativity and inventiveness that has been spawned online by users.  I don't know how or even if the creative team from Super Mario Bros can top this game in the Mario universe, but it'll be interesting to see them try.  


Blisters are forming on the palm of my hand, my thumb, and several fingers are on my hands as I type this. Why? Because I lost another night's sleep playing what I consider the best game of 2015.  Turning the typical online multiplayer shooter on it's head, Splatoon has me fully hooked. I've always steered clear of the online multiplayer shooters, having long ago felt left in the dust when Halo and Call of Duty were just coming into their own. In fact, I would go so far as to say that seeing a parade of similar grey-wolrd, cover-based shooters pop out for the Xbox and Playstation systems has kept me the steadfast Nintendo fan that I am. So when Nintendo first announced Splatoon, I was intrigued that they were doing something that I normally shunned.

Nintendo hadn't really had a new IP in years, and mutiplayer shooter seemed an odd direction for them to take, but not too surprising as every other console maker had been popping them out for years.  At first I was largely ambivalent to the idea, maybe even a little disappointed that Nintendo had decided to hop into this particular corner of the market. However, as the "global test fire" neared, my interest built to the point that I made sure I was free to take the time and participate in this unique, worldwide demo.  Little did I know that I was already hooked after that first time.  When they announced a second test fire/demo, I had errands to run that day. But as soon as they were complete, I raced home and enthusiastically played the last 20 minutes of the second world-wide demo.

The basic premise of the game?  You are an inkling, a tween-age squid-kid hybrid who obsesses about fashion, fun, and endless games of paintball.  You can chose from various head, body, and footwear that offer different abilities which come in handy during the battles. Though there are an ever-growing number of stages available, only four stages available during each time block.  Two for the regular "cover the arena in ink" battle and two other stages for ranked battles which range from a capture the flag type game, to cover certain zones, to a "tower-ride" battle.  What sets Splatoon apart, aside from the characters and color, is that rather than the objective being to rack up kills, you need to cover a greater percentage of the stage than the opposing team, or "bad guys," as they are called. (Naturally, your own team is always the good guys).  This is where the success of the game really lies.  Why pop in one of the dozens of Call of Duty clones, or Call of Duty itself when you can break free from the normal bleak, gritty cover-based-shooting and enter a world full of breath-taking color and shine?  Not to mention the fact that content for the game, FREE content, from new stages, weapons, and gear are being added at a fairly regular rate.

Before I start prattling on much more, I will mention I've already written a fairly extensive review of Splatoon and still have nothing but praise for the game. In fact, if I were to say anything new, I would have to add that the music I dismissed as passable in my original review has come to grow on me. I was only mildly interested in the tunes early on, but nowadays I find myself absentmindedly whistling them and rocking along as the music plays.  Even the main theme seems as familiar to me these days as the title track of a Mario Bros or Zelda game.

Even without a new Zelda, new Star Fox, and who knows what else on the horizon, Splatoon alone deserves to move Wii U systems out retailers' doors.

So what didn't quite make the list?

Honorable Mentions:

Human Resource Machine

Good gravy I wish I knew how to do computer programming, I think I would enjoy this game more if I did. Still, I had a fun enough time watching my wife play and the gang at Tomorrow Corporation have done it again blending great game-play, unique game design, and sublime storytelling. It would have made my top five easily, but I feel like I need to actually be able to play the game for it to get there. Still, it was fun for the few levels I could manage before my more math/computer programmer minded wife need to step in and basically play the game for me in order to beat it. Still, it deserves props for making my wife enthusiastically play a game from start to finish. I don't know if she's ever done that before...

FAST racing NEO

This is very nearly the F-Zero game I've been waiting for--Nay that world has been waiting for. With glorious 60fps, a techno soundtrack, dozens of courses, several different vehicles to fly/drive, and even an online mode--I truly enjoyed this late 2015 entry.  I love logging on and racing, I love the smooth and responsive controls, I love the fact that a tiny slip up can send you exploding down the track with little hope of catching up unless your opponents make the same mistake or worse (challenge is a good thing people).  What I don't love though is that there seem to be glitches in online/multiplayer mode that cause everything from players in the "race friends" mode getting dropped to my Wii U outright freezing and needing a reboot. If it weren't for this the game might have nabbed the #5 spot. Maybe an update will fix issues or add more racers, but as it stands it needs "one more rewrite" as my dad likes to say.


The only thing edging this great little shooter out of the top 5 comes from the fact that despite it reminding me of Robotron, one of my favorite arcade games of all time, it has a little too much going on during on screen action. I enjoy the music, the power-ups, and the fast and furious game-play. However, I wish the color of your gunfire and the color of an enemy death were a bit varied. As the levels get higher and the game harder, I found myself dodging unnecessarily or unwittingly running into enemy fire. I lose a chunk of evening every time I turn it on, but ultimately put it down in frustration when I die time and time again thanks to a minor graphical oddity.

So, there's my list of top Wii U games of 2015. I hope and expect to see a few well known franchises on this list in the future (crosses finger for Legend of Zelda greatness) and some unexpected surprises, though it will be hard to top getting me to like an online multiplayer shooter and a survival horror game.  Here's looking forward to an awesome 2016!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Midweek Music Box: Alone in the Dark 2 Intro Music

It's Christmas and strange things are a foot in Hell's Kitchen.  It's 1924, a little girl has been kidnapped, and Edward Carnby suspects the inhabitants of a mysterious mansion may have had a hand in it.  Time for some music from the PC classic Alone in the Dark 2.  After all, what says Christmas and Yuletide more than ghost pirates, gangsters, and death traps?  

Okay, so I know that being a survival horror game seems to put this more in the realm of Halloween fare, but I guess the fact that the nefarious pirates are doing their evil deeds near the holidays resulted in me playing the game a bit more often towards Christmastime.  I must have let the beginning sequence play a dozen times just to hear the music.

It goes from a creepy version of Jingle Bells into a macabre tune you might expect to hear from an early horror film or something from a Christmas episode of Nickelodeon's Are You Afraid of the Dark. Oh sure, it's got a few merry bells jingling, and pleasant whistle toot or too...but as soon as it goes to harpsichord, then you know it's transitioned from that friendly familiar Christmas carol to something sinister.Give it a listen here:

"Intro Music"

Spooky, right?

Yeah, I know there are probably games out there with their own little version of yuletide tunes ranging from Frosty the Snowman to Silent Night, but something about the minimal use of Jingle Bells in this song does just enough to help establish the time setting that it really helps sell the story line. It makes for a nice picture of things to come.  Yes, there should be merriment, yes there should be the usual festivities, but when foul freebooters are involved--especially those involved in voodoo pact--you know the time for the trimming the tree has passed and it's time to get down to business.  

The rest of the soundtrack does a well enough job selling the story, but for me, those first few notes of the harpsichord and the spooky strains of a merry Christmas tune gone wrong not only remind me of the season, but of great gaming experience.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Night Rentals: Gauntlet, quite a "Dandy" game

Over the years I rented games from every system that I could.  From NES to SNES to Sega Genesis to DS to Wii--if my local video store had a little plastic box representing a game I was interested in, I would snag that box and hope for the best.  Usually it was mixed bag of hit and miss good times and bad.  However, there were times when I would pick up a game and it would remind me of a game I had already played.

No, I'm not referring to the countless space shooters that seemed to be a staple of 80's retro gaming.  I'm talking about the times a game reminded me of something I had already played on the Atari 800 my parents owned.  Sure, M.U.L.E. was M.U.L.E. whether on the Atari or NES--but there were those games which were basically clones of other games that had already appeared on the Atari.

Gauntlet for the NES came in a cartridge that was unlike any other I had seen up to that point.  That black molded plastic was a bit of an oddity to me at the time.  The oddly tapered, but appealing look of the cartridge immediately set it apart.  Most noticeable to me was the lack of the Official Nintendo Seal of approval.  I remember thinking at the time I was possibly doing something wrong by putting it in my machine.  What if it broke the system?  What if the cart acted screwy and didn't function?  That would mean no game for the weekend!  Or worse, what if Nintendo found out what I had done and I wasn't allowed to use my NES anymore?

(Okay, I wasn't just a total Nintendo fanboy back in the day--still am--and I admit that this sounds silly now, but as a kid this was a real concern of mine.)

So just what did I get when I popped in Gauntlet by Tengen?  Did my beloved NES explode?  Did a Nintendo rep batter down my door and berate me for treacherously putting in an unlicensed game?  Or did my older brother and I realize we were basically playing an upgraded version of Dandy?

So what was special about the game in the day and does it still hold up?

Music and Sound


Unlike Dandy, the sound effects are quite a bit better with little grunts and yells as you guide your character through the dozens upon dozens of murder mazes.  Popping this game in again, the sounds when you hit an enemy and as you fire your weapon are as familiar and welcome as they were back in the day.  It's funny how I used to think at times the audio sounded scratchy at times, but now it makes me smile as I remember how I was satisfied that I had actually hit my target enemy.


So, here's where I normally talk about the music. Except, there are many tracks for the various levels in Gauntlet and truthfully, only one immediately comes to mind when I think of Gauntlet, and that's the music for the title screen and the first set of levels.  I love the medieval sounds and the harpsichord-like quality of the tune that conveys something both adventurous and mysterious.  So when I went looking for the song on Youtube, I ran across this great rendition of it and just had to share.

"Orchestral Version Gauntlet"

For purists, here's a copy of the original 8-bit version, and yes, it holds up just as well as back in the day:

"Song A"

Graphic and Style

No longer were we playing as anthropomorphic numbers running along on little legs and slinging directional arrows at skulls and happy faces.  Now we were wizards, elves, warriors and warrior-esses fighting against ogres, ghosts, and a host of other creatures!  Sure the blocks got an upgrade too, but they were less important to us than the fact that our characters actually had a bit of definition.  Yeah the ghosts look a little goofy now, and there's a certain bit of repetitiveness going on with the levels (many areas just getting a palette swap) but it doesn't detract from the fun.

Control and Gameplay

This still plays as solid as it did back in the day.  You race around grabbing keys, treasures, and potions as you battle seemingly unending hordes of monsters all in your quest to get to the final dungeon, slay the villain and save the kingdom.  You know, your basic classic adventure stuff.  I can't say much more other than when you have a dungeon crawler like this and you're spending much of the time surrounded by enemies, it's nice to know that if you get surrounded and die it's your own fault. I can't tell you how many games I played in the day where I'd get surrounded by legions of monsters and die simply because the stupid controls didn't respond.

Final Memories 

I can't say we ever got that far in this game.  Even when my brother and I plugged along and played for a couple of hours, we were renting, and didn't actually own this game.  As you might imagine, it has a bit of an effect on you when you know that you may or may not ever rent the game again.  Sometimes it can me you try all the harder to beat the game--other times you give up sooner, realizing that a single weekend just isn't enough time to get to the end of a game.  It's nice to actually own the game after all this time because now I can finally do what I was unable to do back in the day.  At long last I can make my way through the seemingly endless dungeons.  At long last I can make a go of winning the game...

either that or pick up something else after I get frustrated from hours of seemingly fruitless playing. Whichever comes first.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Midweek Music Box: Sonic the Hedgehog 2

I'm more of a Nintendo guy, that much should be clear by now. But just because you'll typically find me rocking, working, writing, or cleaning to a Nintendo tune doesn't mean I don't love game music on other platforms--even a Sega!  While I won't go so far as to say, "Sega does what Ninten-don't;" I freely admit many Sega games had fantastic tunes. With that said, this time around on the Midweek Music Box we'll be taking a look at Sonic the Hedgehog 2.  I'm only going to highlight three tracks tracks this time around, as I could probably write pages worth on each track and why it evokes so many memories.


What a cheerful and adventurous little melody.  It's got a nice quick pace that helps set the tone of you playing as the fastest rodent alive.  Drum hits aren't too fast, the synthesized keyboard doesn't overpower, and you're left with a pleasant, upbeat feeling. Emerald Hill Zone does a nice job of welcoming you into this odd world of blue hedgehogs, immortal double-tailed foxes, and egg-shaped villains that enjoy robotizing all the furry critters in the world.  It was a happy catchy tune, and I loved running past the various obstacles and enemies as it played.  What a great way to start the game!


"Chemical Plant Zone"

To me this was like a souped up, well done version of something I would expect to hear from the Mega Man X series or someone's version of a classic Mega Man tune, only done with a bit of extra flair.  Yeah, I compared music from Sega's star mascot to that of a well known Nintendo franchise, but that's how it goes, and in my opinion I'm paying the game a huge compliment.  I love the somewhat darker and urgent tone of the tune.  Like it's saying, "Okay, you get the gist of the game?  Good, because it's time to get serious."  It has a fast tempo as you would expect from a Sonic game, but still manages to give you a broad sense of something deeper going on in the game.  You are on an adventure where dangers abound.  It's not all going to be green fields, easy enemies and simple jumps.  I'm sure more than once I lost a life thanks to getting lost in the music while I wound my way through this level.


"Casino Night Zone"

So you go from dashing around Emerald Hills, navigating a deadly chemical plant, through mysterious ruins and are ready for whatever might lie on the horizon, right?  Well, time to kick back to a smooth set of jazzy cymbal hits, drum beats, and boppin' tune.  The whole level design gives you that modern "Vegas at Night" feel, but when it comes to the music, it feels like something from the 1920's.  It's swingin' and hip!  Sure you're already having great fun bouncing around the slots and trying to win rings, but the level probably wouldn't act such a time suck if it weren't for the music that keeps you wanting to trying your luck.  I guess in that way it truly captures a Vegas feel.  I probably lost more lives on this level than any other as the catchy tune and fun action kept me playing over and over again.

So there you have it, a little glimpse into some of the tunes that made Sonic 2 a great game back in the day--and still does now.  I could easily pop in any one of these tracks to help me through my work day, to bop along while writing, or even just driving around town running errands.  If you have a way of grabbing these tunes and others from Sonic 2 I'd highly recommend doing so.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Night Rentals: Editorial Rant: Konami Edition

Can a single game company just churn out greatness and fond memories with ease?  If you were Konami back in the day, the answer was a whole-hearted yes.  From Gradius to Goonies II, Double Dribble to Castlevania, Contra to Rush N' Attack and of course, Metal Gear--Konami was on its A game when they were putting out games for the NES back in the day.  Yes, they've created other mega-smash hits since then, but really when I think about Konami I think of those glory days in the late 80's and early 90's

From the rare but infinitely fun Bucky O' Hare, to the insanely difficult and "Nintendo Hard" Super C; Konami and classic NES games went together not just like bread and butter, but something even better.  Like diamonds and platinum, or invincibility and the ability to fly, or chocolate and more chocolate, or...well, you get the idea.  Point being, I am pretty sure if it was a Friday and I was out to rent a game, chances were fairly high that I was willing to give a game I'd never consider or even heard of a try if it had the Konami label on it.  Simply put, they churned out so many quality titles for the NES, they were more than just another third party developer.  Oh sure, Hudson Soft made some fun games, and Taito and Acclaim popped out their fair share of memorable titles.  When it came to high-powered fun though, you could count on Konami to deliver.  And I often did when it came to a Friday Night Rental.  They had solid controls, great games, fantastic music and sound that still holds up... I mean, they put out Contra for crying out loud!

Pictured above?  Greatness.

So what gives?  What in the world happened?  Who wasn't watching Konami when it toddled off and banged it's head, clearly losing its freaking mind?  I know that me and my generation were doing a good job of watching over it, thank-you-very-much.  We poured out our affection (and money) when we got quality games like Castlevania or Gradius.  We even patted it gently and lovingly on the head when we were handed a particularly messy mud-pie like when Konami churned out Adventures of Bayou Billy.  So just what did you do millennials?  Huh?  Did you accidentally let Konami grab handfuls of lead paint chips and gobble them down like Halloween candy?  If you were thinking we weren't going to notice how insane they've gotten in the past several years you were very wrong!

Seriously, we knew something was wrong, after all we weren't buying the nonsense that one of Konami's greatest employees, Hideo Kojima; simply was having a prolonged vacation.  Before that they were rambling on about how slot machines and "free to start" games were where they really belonged.   Then to top it off they don't allow Kojima to receive his own award at the recent 2015 Video Game Awards!  Did you think that all the tears filling our eyes during the lastest Satoru Iwata tribute would blind us to the truth?

Clearly Konami, the poor dear, has had a head injury or sustained some blow to the brain.  It's not too late though.  There might be hope for this once beloved company, but it's going to take both kinds of us--old school and new generation--gamers to get this done.  We need to let Konami know it's alright and we understand, but they need medical help right away.

What?  You say you'll get started on things right after you're done with Fallout 4 and the latest Call of Duty?


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Midweek Music Box: F-Zero GX

Running at a glorious 60 FPS, this racing game for the Gamecube has so much going for it from bright and colorful graphics an eclectic cast of characters, to most especially the music.  Not that my current T.V. screen lacks decent size, I'm content with a 32" thanks, but F-Zero GX ranks up there in my top five games that make me wish I had a jumbo big screen.  Can you image zooming along on a jumbo screen with those sweet sounds pumping out?  (Of course, I would be open to a sound system upgrade, but that's another story...)

I mean seriously though, the F-Zero GX music has the "gotta go fast" soundtrack that the last few installments of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise wish they had.  Constant thumping, heart-pounding rhythms playing directly on your emotions.  I'm glad I don't have some of these tunes playing when I drive anywhere because likely as not I'd get pulled over for speeding, not to mention reckless driving.  So what are some of the specifics as to what makes F-Zero GX's track so incredible?  First, take a listen to the music from Mute City:

"Mute City Theme"

Do you hear that?  Futuristic sound that doesn't have a dated feel.  Guitar strains and a fast chomping heavy metal guitar.  Ever more rapid drum beats and a pounding techno rhythm.  Best of all?  The upbeat tone that it conveys.  Being one of the first races you'll do, naturally there had to be tune that conveyed not only the tone of the track, but of the game itself.  Composers Hidenori Shoji and 
Daiki Kasho (and Alan Bray.  From what I can tell, he did the vocals) have put together a tune that truly show off not only the kind of music they are bringing to the game, but the very nature of the game itself.  The Mute City theme does set itself apart, but there are so many other great tunes within F-Zero, I wanted to single out at least one.  However, for your listening enjoyment, here' the complete soundtrack:

"F-Zero GX OST"

If you can find a way to download this music, you seriously need to do so.  There are many games that attempt to have "the sound of the future," and as time passes they end up seeming as hilariously dated as the Flash Gordon series of old.   However, F-Zero still feels as if it's got a bead on what the future of music might hold.  What with the passage of dub-step, the popularity of techno, and more modern songs using digital sounding effects to create padding--I can almost imagine a world where techno-pop music not only is the rage, but dominates all we do.  Which apparently racing is a whole lot of what we will do.  That and listening to some kick-butt tunes as we fly down reverse gravity corridors and tube-like tunnels.  Who needs hover-boards?  The F-Zero GX future is the one we should be waiting for.

Bipedal Computer Processor: Human Resource Machine Review

Power failures? Robots attacking the city?  Humanity on the brink of doom?  Stop worrying about that nonsense and get back to work!  There's a busy Inbox and Outbox to take care of and you haven't got time to think about petty, mundane things like mankind's forthcoming robot enslavement.  You are the Human Resource Machine!

Yes, the boys from Tomorrow Corporation have returned, this time with a unique take on the puzzle genre that may have left me in the dust, but it made my wife giggle with glee.  How did they make this so?


Although a cute little character appears on screen at all times, what you really are controlling are the various tiles that make up the commands you input in order to make.  They slide around easily, and discarding incorrect tiles is also easy.  The interface is both functional and very user friendly.  Not much to say beyond that it works well for the tasks at hand.

Music and Sound

The music shifts from having an upbeat tone, to oddly melancholy, to mysterious and foreboding.  In short: It's the typically awesome music you come to expect from a Tomorrow Corporation game.  I would download all of these in a heartbeat because they often remind me of Danny Elfman's better work.  There are few game makers I know of outside the major companies that pull off such a rich level of music with such strong personality.  Kyle Gabler just knocks it out of the park again.

"Title Track"

Sound design for this Tomorrow Corporation game also remains as strong as its predecessors.  From the blips and bloops as you enter computer commands, to the pleasant whir of the conveyor belt; each sound in Human Resource Machine carries with it a weight of personality which again feels distinctly Tomorrow Corporation.  Likely they've borrowed assets from previous games, but they are as welcome here as they were in the previous games.  Even though World of Goo hasn't even reached a ten year anniversary, I already feel a twinge of nostalgia when I hear the already familiar sounds.

Graphics and Style

Yup, it too has got that Tomorrow Corporation feel, and that' alright.  All the characters look like something out of Tim Burton's sketchbook, and that works great.  It's amazing how much emotion you can get from the simple little figures.  You really feel like they're tiny little people in a cartoon world.  From the bespectacled boss, to the pop-up book-ish building, to the odd charcoal like shadows--Human Resource Machine has a style which feels familiar, but in a comforting way.  Like, "I know this world and what's happening in it.  They're doomed, aren't they?"

I'm not sure if the games are all connected just because the art style is the same, but I really hope they are.


As I sat down to treat myself to another clever puzzle game from the Tomorrow Corporation people, I quickly found myself out of my depth.  I was working along, got to roughly level 7, and was a little lost as to what to do next.  I kept trying to figure out the puzzle, but being more of a wordsmith, the numbers aspect was throwing me off.  I pondered what to do next when suddenly the controller disappeared from my hand and the weirdest thing happened next:

My wife was holding the controller; playing, smiling, and plugging away at the game like it was nothing.

"You're doing basic programming," she said with delight.  

Ordinarily my wife does not play video games, as most of the more modern 3D games make her motion sick fairly quickly.  However, thanks to the 2D graphics, there she was was beside me plugging away and finishing each level with ease.  Oh sure, there came a point where she slowed, but she thanks to her intuitively knowing what the game was all about after watching me play for a few minutes, she was able to chug through half the game with a ease.  (Or at least what seemed like ease to a person who does writing, not programming for a living.

My wife and I had previously enjoyed playing Little Inferno together, so she was drawn to the game when I told her it was from the same people.  However, where I wasn't able to figure out the puzzles past a certain point she was able to pick up and play through the game because she recognized it for what it was:  A math and computer programming game.  Her talents, abilities, and the lessons learned via her computer science Bachelors degree had come to use in playing a video game!  Why was this?  Well...

Each level involves you moving objects from the Inbox to the Outbox in ever more intricate ways, but you do so by creating a list of commands for your little office worker to perform.  In essence, your human icon is a machine or computer.  You plug in the commands and it does the job you told it to do.  Math and computers just aren't my strong suit, but this did not detract from my enjoying watching my wife play the game.  There was something fascinating about watching a game about "programming."

Final Thoughts

I guess I should have known what the game involved seeing as the website itself has a section where it flat out says, "About the Game:  For Expert Nerds" in big bold print.  Despite it being geared more towards people with my wife's skills, it was just too awesome to pass up though.  I have to really hand it to Allan Blomquist, Kyle Gabler,  at Tomorrow Corporation.  I may not have had the chops to solve the game, but by golly I loved just watching the story, however bleak, unfold.  So much atmosphere and cleverness in a simple but highly effective package.  Bravo guys, you made math and computers interesting to a word nerd like me.

Final Scores:

Graphics: 10/10
Style:  10/10
Music:  10/10
Sound: 10/10
Control: 10/10
Gameplay 10/10