Indie Spotlight: To Hell And Back With Hades

Over the past week, I have been enjoying Supergiant’s latest game Hades on my Nintendo Switch. It is a Roguelike, a genre I covered in my last post about Rogue. I should note, this is not a full-fledged review of the game. I have not beat Hades yet, however, I wanted to share my initial thoughts on it.

Hades is the story of Prince Zagreus, one of the many progeny of Hades himself. Zagreus one night (relative to time in the Underworld) decides to go through his father’s documents, hoping to find anything at all about himself. He ends up learning of his true mother, Persephone. Determined to find her in the surface world, Zagreus begins his journey of multiple attempts to escape the Underworld.

As such, you aren’t expected to finish Hades in one run. You will die multiple times, and I mean MULTIPLE times. So get ready to hone your skills if you wish to aid Zagreus in his escape from the Underworld.

Be prepared to see this screen a lot throughout your play-through.

In Hades, your goal is to make it as far as possible through Tartarus and escape the Underworld. Along the way, you will receive help from Zagreus’ Olympian relatives. They will give you different power-ups and effects for your skills. However, upon death you lose any and all of these power-ups. Essentially, you start from scratch after each time you die. Certain elements of the game are permanent, though, like weapons and other effects. My favorite weapon so far is the Aegis Shield.

Achilles is right, death is just another obstacle to our hero Zagreus.

Ultimately, combat can be pretty simple at times to downright frantic. Some early chambers will feature fewer enemies while later chambers will throw waves of them at you. For this, a bit of advice from the character Hypnos, “Dash like mad.” Dashing lets you evade most attacks. Depending on certain power-ups, your dashes can deal damage themselves.

Other than that, the characters are pretty entertaining and well-written so far. My personal favorite side character is Nyx, Queen of the Night. The soundtrack is also fitting and a blast to listen to while fighting off hordes of Underworld denizens.

Final Thoughts

Hades is a great spin on the Roguelike genre. It offers hours of content and replay value. I look forward to playing more of Hades in the future. Have any of you played Hades yet? Let me know what you think in the comments! As always my fellow nerds, until next time, peace.

Into the Dungeons of Doom: The Legacy of Rogue

If there is another genre I love, it is the Roguelike. The endless amounts of randomly generated dungeons to crawl and loot to grab define this genre. Where did this genre begin, though? Well, it all started with a single game little over 40 years ago.

The Birth of Rogue

Way back in the mystical year of 1980, there were two gents named Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman, both age 19. They went to college at UC Santa Cruz and worked on computer coding. Both Michael and Glenn had a love for the computer text-based game Adventure. The game would only give you descriptions of surrounding and the like through text, as there were no graphics at the time.

However, Glenn recalls around this time at UC Berkeley a man named Ken Arnold had put together a library of routines. This ultimately allowed programs, like games, to put a character on the screen. While it didn’t allow for true graphics, it would serve as a primitive form of them. Letters, symbols, and numbers could now be used to represent very rudimentary pictures.

Eventually, the package containing the library made its way around several campuses. As the creative minds they were, Michael and Glenn wanted to create a graphical adventure game with the library. Ultimately, this gave birth to Rogue (a name Glenn came up with based off the character class from Dungeons and Dragons).

What type of game is Rogue?

Rogue is an adventure game that takes place in the “Dungeons of Doom,” where the fabled Amulet of Yendor rests. Everything in the game is randomly generated. This means floor layouts, item placement, and enemy placement are all randomized. That makes every play through different than the last.

Screenshot of the MS DOS version of Rogue, played via Steam.

You fight monsters in this game simply by hitting the arrow key in the direction of the monster. After beating a monster, you gain experience points. Gain enough of these and you’ll level up. The game play itself is very basic, but for a game from the 80s, I can overlook that. This is especially true for a game that helped pioneer its own sub-genre.

The Legacy of Rogue

Rogue helped to inspire the sub-genre of games called “Roguelikes.” Essentially, these games take after the original Rogue with how they play. A somewhat well-known series that spawned from this sub-genre is Chunsoft’s Mystery Dungeon. Even the game Hades, a Roguelike developed by Supergiant Games, was nominated for Game of the Year at 2020’s Video Game Awards. There are countless games that have been inspired by the original Rogue. Needless to say, the Roguelike sub-genre has become very popular and successful since its inception.

Final Thoughts

Rogue has undoubtedly inspired many games since the early 1980s. Its always fascinating to see how a seemingly small and simple game inspire a myriad of other games. One thing’s for sure, I’m thankful that Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman followed their passions to develop Rogue. It gave rise to one of my favorite sub-genres in gaming. What do you all think of the history and legacy of Rogue? Let me know in the comments. Until next time my fellow nerds, peace.


To the Scrapyard: 3 Games That Never Released

There are many video games out there, some that have gone on to be great successes. However, not every game gets released. A few even got far into development but were axed later on. This week I will be looking at three games that never reached store shelves.

#1: Sonic-16 (Cancelled Sega Genesis/Mega Drive game, 1993)

There are several cancelled Sonic the Hedgehog games throughout the series’ history. This one, referred to as Sonic-16, was pitched to Sega by Sega Technical Institute (a long-defunct American development studio of Sega). Sonic-16 was based off the hit TV-show at the time simply called Sonic the Hedgehog or as fans call it, “Sonic SatAM.”

It featured noticeably slower and more methodical game play than the series was known for back then. This reason alone is often cited as why then series director Yuji Naka gave the pitch a thumbs down. There is a video of the cancelled game on YouTube, but I thought it would be best to share it here.

Video of the pitched game from November 1993. (Video credit: Peter Morawiec)

Personally, I would have been interested in trying the game out if it ever released. (Granted, I wasn’t even alive in 1993). Funnily enough, the old Saturday morning cartoon is what introduced me to the overall Sonic series. I’m pretty sure younger me would have been thrilled to see this as a fully playable game. However, as an adult, I can see why Yuji Naka made the decision he did. It would have been too risky to change the game play so drastically early on in the series. Though, I will admit, part of me would love to see this game revived officially or through a fan-made ROM-hack.

One last thing to note, Sonic-16 has been said to be an earlier form of another, much more infamous cancelled Sonic game. However, I feel the story of Sonic X-treme is best saved for its own post.

#2: Maverick Hunter (Cancelled Mega Man first-person shooter)

Ah yes, the Blue Bomber himself has his own set of cancelled games, too. However, the most interesting one to me is the cancelled first-person shooter game. This game, entitled Maverick Hunter, was based off the Mega Man X sub-series. It would have reportedly been similar to what Metroid Prime brought to the Metroid series. (In fact, some of the people who worked on Metroid Prime also worked on Maverick Hunter).

Video of the game play in Maverick Hunter. (Video credit: MegaMacTV)

Maverick Hunter features fast and high-octane action akin to DOOM (2016). Players would have been mowing down robots and performing stylized kills on them too. The video featuring its game play was first released back in 2013, presumably some time after the game had been cancelled.

I honestly think this game could have been quite a bit of fun and an interesting spin on Mega Man X. It would have been a much darker take on the series and a radical genre shift, too. The Mega Man X games are traditionally “run ‘n gun” platformers and a bit more lighthearted. Suffice to say, I can see why this project got shelved.

#3: Star Wars 1313 (Cancelled multi-platform action game, 2013)

Among all of the Star Wars games developed by LucasArts, Star Wars 1313 was one of the last. This wasn’t because LucasArts went under, it was because the Walt Disney Company had bought Lucasfilm around the time of development. Ultimately, the game was scrapped due to the acquisition by Disney and subsequent layoffs at LucasArts.

The game would have starred bounty hunter Boba Fett as he explored the subterranean society “Level 1313” of the planet Coruscant. It would have been a darker, grittier take on the Star Wars universe.

A trailer featuring game play of Star Wars 1313. (Video credit: GameNews)

Given the recent success of The Mandalorian, I could see a game like this being done for the current gen of consoles and PC. It probably wouldn’t be a straight-up revival of 1313, but a potential game could take a lot of inspiration from it. Considering that the Star Wars games license will no longer be EA’s in a couple years, I would say a 1313-inspired game is completely possible.

Final Thoughts

Like I said before, not every game gets to make it to store shelves. Regardless, it is still interesting to look at what could have been for some game series. There are still far more cancelled games I could cover in the future, and even some other lost media too. Though, that is for another time. As always, feel free to let me know what you think of this post in the comments. Until next time my fellow nerds, peace!

The Great Escape: Video Games and Escapism

We all know how great this past year has been. A global pandemic, draconian lock downs, civil unrest, etc. When the world plunges itself into utter and nearly inescapable chaos, where do people have left to turn? One method is escapism.

What is escapism?

Escapism is best defined as using fantasy or imagination to distract yourself from reality. At its core, escapism provides humanity a way to look away from their troubles and stresses, even if only for a fleeting moment. In some ways, it’s an essential part of life because it lets people cope with the negative aspects of their real lives.

However, too much escapism can be a detrimental thing. There’s a difference in indulging in escapist fantasy occasionally and literally living in a fantasy world. Escaping reality shouldn’t come at the cost of living your actual life. Though, that’s enough of my personal advice for one post.

Aside from that, at its most basic, escapism could be seen as idly daydreaming. However, it can take many forms: music, books, television/film, writing, art, or even sports. The form of escapism I’m interested in discussing here is, surprisingly enough, the world of video games.

How are video games an escape?

Video games provide a fantasy for players to partake in. This fantasy is all dependent on the person, though. Some wish to slay dragons and explore a vast open world. Others may just want to race around in luxury cars and wreak havoc in the city. Fortunately, video games offer a rich and diverse selection of worlds to explore, all with their own unique stories. I’d argue that there are games out there for everyone to enjoy, it just takes a little looking.

While this is all well and good, exactly how are video games an escape? Again, it’s all about appealing to the individual’s fantasies. Games allow players to actively engage in that fantasy, creating a stronger escapist experience overall. The level of need or want to see those fantasies satisfied is going to vary depending upon the person. When those are fulfilled, a game has done its job.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’d say video games are my go-to form of escapism. They provide just enough of an interactive fantasy that other mediums don’t. However, that isn’t to discredit other methods of escapism. That brings me to my question for the week: what are your favorite ways to escape reality? Let me know in the comments! Until next time my fellow nerds, peace.