Itch n’ Bitch #2: An Itch.io Roundup

Every so often, we do a roundup of the best games that you can play on Itch.io. Here are three games that I think are worth your time.

Toripon

I have a deep love and respect for birds. I browse YouTube and find clips of birds making noises when I feel sad. Toripon feels tailor-made for me.

In Toripon, you explore your apartment and take pictures of birds to complete your photography collection. It’s Pokémon Snap mixed with the first-person segments of Silent Hill 4: The Room, but with birds. As you fill out your collection, more rare birds start to appear in your apartment doing cute things. There are a lot of birds, with more than 40 types to find. It’s a treat.

The game has a 3D-pixelated aesthetic that works well when paired with the minimal animations of the birds. Torpipon’s attractive but straightforward art style reminds me of Proteus. While the birds move on set animation loops, it is still adorable every time they do something, such as riding a Roomba or getting angry at a cup. Additionally, the camera overlay that appears when you go into picture mode is charming. Everything about the art style and graphics are made for my sensibilities.

Music is another standout part of this game. The menu theme is a jam, and there are several radios throughout the environment playing soothing tracks to aid you in your bird journey. You can also hear the birds chirping and quacking all around you. The music and bird chirps are a calming cacophony.

If you want to feel better about your life when everything feels like it’s falling apart, let the birds of Toripon be your wings.

Release date: 12/06/2019
Time to finish: About an hour to get all the birds
Game Dev: Victoria Smith
Itch.io: https://theladyvictoria.itch.io/toripon
Twitter: https://twitter.com/theladyvictoria

Adiasis

When I was younger, I spent so much time on JRPGs. As a jaded adult, I could not imagine spending more than 100 hours completing the sphere grid in Final Fantasy X or finding all of the endings in Chrono Cross. Even with my adult responsibilities, I can find time to play an extremely polished JRPG that can be completed in less than half an hour.

Adiasis is a style-infused JRPG with an exciting combat style and beautiful art direction. The game pitches itself as an “active battle system that allows the player to avoid enemy attacks.” This inversion of the button timing systems of series like the Super Mario RPG and Shadow Hearts works surprisingly well because it makes the time spent watching an enemy into a rhythm game. Every attack against your characters becomes a tense moment of trying to respond in time. This dodge feature should be standard in every JRPG.

The UI is another standout feature of Adiasis. The combat interface takes massive inspiration from Persona 5 and translates that styyyyyyyle into a 2D interface. The level up screen is in your face, and a satisfying onomatopoeia accompanies every attack. It is a shameless rip-off, but it works so well at conveying an emotion. 

The game is short, clocking in at less than 20 minutes if you are good at combat. There is barely a story or motivation for the characters beyond “destroying evil.” But, even with these limitations, the game knows to focus on its strengths. It does not overstay its welcome, and every encounter is unique. If you have a little bit of free time, you should give Adiasis a try.

Release date: 12/04/19
Time to finish: About 25 minutes (depending on how good you are at combat)
Game Dev: Albin Dahlheim
Itch.io: https://crepecroop.itch.io/adiasis
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CrepeCroop

Yarntown

As a recent Bloodborne convert, I will take any excuse to go back to Yharnam. I was addicted to grinding blood echoes and spent so much time running around the first few areas of Yharnam. That knowledge was put to good use when playing Yarntown.

Yarntown reimagines the first few areas of Bloodborne as a 2D action game. The game converts streets and alleys of Yharnam into a flat overworld, similar to The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past. The enemies, bosses, and key locales are well-represented by beautiful 2D art.

Even with the change in perspective, I was able to apply my previous knowledge to find the critical path and secrets. I loved the secrets that Yarntown carried over from the original game, including a certain “hoonter.”

One of the most beloved aspects of Soulsborne games are the bosses and the combat system. In Yarntown, the much loved Cleric Beast and Father Gascoigne both show up to kill your character and end your runs. I’m happy to report that the strategy of rolling behind them and “punching the butt” is still useful. The rally mechanic, which allows you to attack enemies and regain health, is also in the game.

If you have any fondness for Bloodborne, you owe it to yourself to check out Yarntown

Release date: 07/18/20
Time to finish: About 45 minutes
Game Dev: Max Mraz
Itch.io: https://maxatrillionator.itch.io/yarntown
Twitter: https://twitter.com/11mraz

Spider-Man (2018) Review

Your friendly problematic Spider-Man.

This review will contain spoilers for the game Spider-Man (2018) and its DLC

Swinging across skyscrapers in New York City and cracking bad jokes while fighting a man dressed as a vulture is an empowering fantasy. Insomniac Games nails that fantasy in Spider-Man (2018). The movement and combat system are a joy to use and there is so much to do and find. It is a well of nostalgia, as the game pulls older suits and references from across Spider-Man’s more than 50-year history. Fans get to see a new Sinister Six and a smattering of other fan favorite villians. It is not a surprise that the creators of Sunset Overdrive can make a competent open-world game. What surprised me is how little the game’s story has to say behind its veneer of political awareness.

A Working Class Hero

In this universe’s version of the Spider-Man lore, Peter Parker is a down-on-his-luck twenty-something who has given up his role as a photographer for a career as a struggling scientist. Mary Jane has broken up with him, and he cannot make his rent payments. He is evicted, loses his job, and debates if being a chef is a better career path. But, he still finds time to volunteer at a shelter, research prostheses, and mentor a new Spider-Man.

This version of Peter Parker has space to do so much good work to define the character beyond the expected tale of just fighting supervillains. The breakneck pace of the game’s story throws away this potential. The story makes Spider-Man fight a fascist private military company, an army of palette-swapped henchmen, and the Sinister Six with little time  to reflect. Peter does not have much of an opinion on how he would change the status quo and just trusts the current system to reach the right conclusions. The ending is emotional and starts to have Peter question his own ethics, but that is quickly dismissed in the DLC.

Spider-Man Is A Cop

An element of the game that did not age well, especially in the wake of the George Floyd anti-racism and police brutality protests of 2020, is Peter’s close relationship with the police. Peter works closely with the hard-boiled police detective Yuri Wantanabe throughout the game and she often acts as his main mission giver. He idolizes the cops, and there are recurring segments that involve him talking to Yuri as “Spider-Cop.” The game also paints the New York Police Department (NYPD) as a well-intentioned but ultimately harmless institution. The cops in this game never kill, and in one story mission a police officer uses only a stun gun and stun grenades when faced with deadly force.

In the DLC Yuri crosses the line into police brutality and murder. She is unabashed in saying that she did the right thing by taking the law into her own hands and extrajudicial dealing “justice.”  Peter’s proposed solution is to tell her to turn herself into the NYPD because he doesn’t want to fight her. I am far from the first person to call out this game for having a pro-police message, but it’s still shocking how this vigilante never interrogates that the police aren’t always the best solution. 

Beyond worshipping cops, Spider-Man takes some actions that enable police abuse. Peter takes a stand against fascists locking up protestors in cages, but he does not mind fixing a Manhattan-wide surveillance network run by the police. He declares that drugs are the crime that he hates worst of all, even though he is also fighting an organized crime syndicate that regularly kills people. 

Every moral option in this game is a regression of the superhero genre that feels out of place even in 2018. Peter is a white savior that goes into New York City communities based on a police surveillance network with the sole intention of fighting. His only other outlet of community service is through the non-profit, which is shown to be run by an organized crime boss. The story had all of the plot points in place to talk about how violence is a catalyst and that nonprofits have their limits in actually aiding communities. But, the game never reflects on it.

The game tepidly calls out these deeper themes through a satirical podcast run by noted Spider-Man hater, J. Jonah Jameson. Jameson is an Alex Jones-type who theorizes that everything wrong about New York City is secretly Spider-Man’s fault. Unfortunately, he is also the only character questioning why the police have a surveillance network, and if Spider-Man’s actions help the city long-term. Jameson is also pro-cop, so he’s also canceled.

Courtesy of Insomniac Games

Plenty Of Villains, But Few Interesting Ones

This refusal to engage with Spider-Man’s beliefs is such a bummer because the story does attempt to set up some villains as a foil. Sadly, the motivation of these villains are not given time to breathe. Martin Li is a non-profit director with an art degree who also runs an organized crime syndicate. The game builds him up as the “big bad” but then quickly drops him in favor of centering another villain in the final act.

The two Asian characters in this game are ultimately revealed to be villains driven by their own internal demons. But, in Martin’s case, we don’t get to see what his motivations were beyond revenge, and that leaves him as an Asian caricature who obsesses over Chinese theater masks and yin-yang symbols. It is telling that, in addition to guns, the Asian gangsters use jians (Chinese swords commonly used in martial arts) and kamas (short sickle-like weapons) while every other faction exclusively uses science fiction weapons, guns or fists. The gang is painted with a myriad of superficial Hollywood tropes related to Asian culture without explaining their history or providing a rich characterization of their leader.

The characters in this game are well established in the Spider-Man comics and have a rich history that gets into their motivations and backstories. But, I am a casual Spider-Man fan who has only read a few of his most notable stories. The way that these villains are portrayed in this story makes it hard to feel interested. It is fun to see Spider-Man’s extensive rogues’ gallery, but we barely get a payoff for the time spent building up these characters.

Spider-Man 2018 waypoints
The waypoints are just a little excessive.

A Lot Of Webbing But Little Substance

It is also a shame that the game gives you so many side-activities to pad out the completion time. You can hunt down collectible backpacks, fight street crimes, take on enemy bases, snap photos, and do a myriad of other activities. The reward for completing the side-mission is often a new suit pulled from Spider-Man’s long comic-book history. These suits unlock new powers, which can dramatically change the flow of combat. But, the required activities feel like a repetitive grind without relevant story content.

At the end of the day this is a AAA game that fulfills all of the expectations of a first-party Sony product. It’s got overwhelmingly detailed set pieces and top-notch voice acting. Peter has some quips that walk the line between barely funny and groan-inducing. The tried and true Batman: Arkham Asylum combat works well with the game and the developers have added some slight flourishes involving aerial combat and gadgets. The game performed well on my non-pro PlayStation 4. The photo mode is very cool and has a lot of stickers in it. It is a technical slam dunk.

With Spider-Man: Miles Morales on the horizon for the end of 2020, I hope that a more focused experience will give this game the pruning that it needs. It is a competent Insomniac open-world game that works well and looks beautiful. I wish it cared more about telling its own stories rather than relying on comic book tropes.

Header image courtesy of Insomniac Games

Greetings From 33: The Grah-Grah Has to Grah-Go

EPISODE SUMMARY

Hey! Are you in quarantine? Well, so are we! But it’s all good, because Animal Crossing: New Horizons is here like a balm on our sorry souls. Join us as we talk about our first days on our new islands, our favorite (and least favorite) villagers, and how badly we want Brewster to drop by and serve us some hot coffee. Wash your hands and stay inside, and join us for another great episode!

EPISODE NOTES

Summary

The world outside may be on fire, but the Greetings From gang is indoors playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Join us as we gush over our wonderful first few days, our highs and lows, and all the blue sky dreams we have for island life. 

Salutations

  • Olivia: RetroAchievements
  • Tyler:  The Jackbox Party 3, but really any of them
  • Rebecca:  BioShock 2: Minerva’s Den

Questions? Comments?

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Visit us at http://www.greetingsfrom.zone/ for articles, more episodes, and streams.

Our intro and outro music is an edited version of “Deep Fried Space Food” by SubstituteSandwiches under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode)

Download the song at: https://soundcloud.com/substitute_sandwiches/deep-fried-space-food

Greetings From 32: Who Is The Alex Jones Of Video Games?

EPISODE SUMMARY

Hello! It’s March and the world is on fire. Quarantine has us left with nothing to do but play video games. We talk about the lovely horror games from Frictional Gaming, the return to Rapture with Bioshock, and what trauma Death Stranding has caused.

The Games Discussed

Games We’re Playing Right Now

  • Punchout on the NES by Nintendo
  • Hearth Stone by Blizzard Entertainment
  • Divinity: Original Sin 2 by Larian Studios
  • We are all playing Animal Crossing by Nintendo

Questions? Comments?

Email us at GreetingsFromCast@gmail.com

Call us at +1-FIRM-GAMERS (+1-347-642-6377)

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– YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs2Q7mpzlKYY24IY5i_8r2A

Or individually at:

– Olivia: https://twitter.com/Livjq

– Rebecca: https://twitter.com/Rebeccafay

– Tyler: https://twitter.com/Worldjumpin

Visit us at http://www.greetingsfrom.zone/ for more episodes or to subscribe

Our intro and outro music is an edited version of “Deep Fried Space Food” by SubstituteSandwiches under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode)

Download the song at: https://soundcloud.com/substitute_sandwiches/deep-fried-space-food

Header image courtesy of Florian Krumm on Unsplash

Greetings From 31: tfw they cancel E3

Summary

The world might be falling apart, but the Greetings From crew is persisting! On this episode of the news recap, we talked about all of the postponements and cancellations of shows because of the Coronavirus. We talked about Horizon Zero Dawn coming to PC and a surprise announcement by GameStop.

GDC Was Postponed Because Of The Coronavirus

Horizon Zero Dawn Is Coming To PC

First-Party Xbox Series X And Select Third-Party Games Will Get Cross-Buy

E3 Ain’t Looking To Hot

Reggie Fils-Aimé Joins The GameStop Board

Questions? Comments?

Email us at GreetingsFromCast@gmail.com
Call us at +1-FIRM-GAMERS (+1-347-642-6377)

Follow Us On

Or Individually At

Visit us at http://www.greetingsfrom.zone/ for more episodes or to subscribe

Our intro and outro music is an edited version of “Deep Fried Space Food” by SubstituteSandwiches under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode)

Download the song at: https://soundcloud.com/substitute_sandwiches/deep-fried-space-food

Greetings From 30: Get a Papa Murphy’s Pizza with Doomguy

Summary

It’s Valentine’s Day, and the Greetings From gang gathers together to discuss their most steamy and romantic relationships with video game characters. We dissect the hotties and the notties in another random draw game, and once again ponder some of life’s most important questions.

Works Discussed

  • Mass Effect series, developed by BioWare
  • Gex 64: Enter the Gecko, developed by Crystal Dynamics
  • Donkey Kong Country, developed by Rare
  • Knack, developed by SIE Japan Studio
  • Undertale, developed by Toby Fox
  • Death Stranding, developed by Kojima Productions
  • God of War, developed by SIE Santa Monica Studio
  • Red Dead Redemption 2, developed by Rockstar
  • Katamari Damacy, developed by Namco
  • Wolfenstein series, developed by id Software
  • Control, developed by Remedy Entertainment
  • Kirby series, developed by HAL Laboratory
  • Hearthstone, developed by Blizzard Entertainment
  • Overwatch, developed by Blizzard Entertainment
  • Doom series, developed by id Software
  • Dark Souls, developed by From Software
  • Bloodborne, developed by From Software
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, developed by Bethesda Game Studios

Salutations

  • Olivia: Super Mario Maestro by h267
  • Tyler: Warehouse 13
  • Rebecca: What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte and Breakout: Pilgrim in the Microworld by David Sudnow

Questions? Comments?

Follow us on

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Visit us at http://www.greetingsfrom.zone/ for articles, more episodes, and streams.

Our intro and outro music is an edited version of “Deep Fried Space Food” by SubstituteSandwiches under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode)

Download the song at: https://soundcloud.com/substitute_sandwiches/deep-fried-space-food

Greetings From 29: Punish Me Daddy Bloodborne

EPISODE SUMMARY

Hello! It’s finally February and the gang have been playing a few games during this slow month. We talk about having 8 uncontrollable limbs from Octodad: Deadliest Catch, how gardening is therapy in Mutazione, and the trials of Bloodborne.

The Games Discussed

Games we’re playing right now

Questions? Comments?

Email us at GreetingsFromCast@gmail.com

Call us at +1-FIRM-GAMERS (+1-347-642-6377)

Follow us on

– Twitter at https://twitter.com/greetingsfrompc

– Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greetingsfromcast/

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– Discord at https://discord.gg/fn8hVeh

– YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs2Q7mpzlKYY24IY5i_8r2A

Or individually at:

– Olivia: https://twitter.com/Livjq

– Rebecca: https://twitter.com/Rebeccafay

– Tyler: https://twitter.com/Worldjumpin

Visit us at http://www.greetingsfrom.zone/ for more episodes or to subscribe

Our intro and outro music is an edited version of “Deep Fried Space Food” by SubstituteSandwiches under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode)

Download the song at: https://soundcloud.com/substitute_sandwiches/deep-fried-space-food

Header image courtesy of Florian Krumm on Unsplash

Coaching Corner: Undertale – Episode 2

It’s Rebecca’s first time playing Undertale. Can Tyler and Olivia help her avoid murder and make friends?

In this episode: Olivia, RebeccaTyler

Greetings From 28: Chris Redfield’s Rippling Abs

Summary

Good morning, afternoon, or evening, whenever and wherever you are. This is Olivia and thank you again for listening to the Greetings From podcast. In this episode of the Greetings From News Recap we discuss Atari’s foray into building hotels, how every game got delayed, Byleth’s introduction into Smash, and the latest PlayStation 5 rumors.

Atari Is Building… Hotels?

Every Game Was Delayed

Byleth Joins Smash

PlayStation 5 Rumors

Questions? Comments?

Email us at GreetingsFromCast@gmail.com

Call us at +1-FIRM-GAMERS (+1-347-642-6377)

Follow Us On

Or Individually At

Visit us at http://www.greetingsfrom.zone/ for more episodes or to subscribe

Our intro and outro music is an edited version of “Deep Fried Space Food” by SubstituteSandwiches under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode)

Download the song at: https://soundcloud.com/substitute_sandwiches/deep-fried-space-food

Pen Pals: Old School Runescape

Pen Pals is a show where we play some games remotely, together! In this episode of Pen Pals we went back to our roots and played Old School Runescape! We went to the Wizard’s Tower and explored the Wildy.

In this episode: Olivia, Rebecca, Tyler