The Tiny Bang Story review

Released in spring 2011 by Colibri Games, The Tiny Bang Story opens with a football meteorite has destroyed the planet (or at least its image) and shattered it into several pieces that you must recover throughout the course of the game.

I really enjoyed this game, but this was mainly for the elaborate search for the various puzzle pieces, and other items that are cunningly hidden. Especially later in game, the puzzle pieces would almost perfectly blend in with the scenery and required a fine-tooth comb to recover.

However, there were a couple inconsistencies in regards to the puzzle piece mechanics. While it would make sense that collecting each puzzle piece would be required to move onto the next level, and in some cases that hasn’t been my experience – perhaps because at that point I had already finished my first playthrough.

Additionally, some extra puzzle pieces can be collected in the final level without any actual effect on the game. Perhaps the creators thought that hiding several pieces would increase the probability of players finding them, especially when they are so well-camouflaged. But if so, why then make it possible to continue collecting the pieces after the quota has been reached?

***

For a puzzle game, there was an unfortunate lack of any puzzles that actually challenge the player.

Many of these were hit and miss, and could be easily solved with trial and error, such as the lightbulb puzzle, and balancing the suitcase weights.

The two minigames I especially disliked were these retro-inspired games within a game.

These were incredibly repetitive and dull. They really felt like cheap fillers amongst other puzzles and really detailed, interesting art.

Luckily I really enjoyed several of the puzzles, particularly those that required putting things together. While you could argue that these lego-style puzzles are as repetitive as the ones I harped on above, they continued to surprise where the mini-games are completely expected. The final piece in each was hidden in the hint image. While I should have known better the second time around, the game completely pulled the wool over my eyes and got me twice.

***

The Tiny Bang Story‘s soundtrack is bland, understated, and repetitive. Repetitive background music can be incredibly effective in making time pass and helping a player immerse themselves in the game. Just about every Animal Crossing game and The Sims 2 did this really well.

 

See the difference? Something about The Sims 2 shopping themes helps completely immerse me in my home-renovation fantasy whereas The Tiny Bang Story soundtrack grates on me so much I usually completely mute it and listen to something else.

***

The art style was unique, varied, and intricate, which suits the investigative aspect of the game. Also, it made me really want to live inside a teapot.

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Screenshot from Calibrigames.com

I’ve noticed that characters didn’t always fit with their environments, especially in regards to the main character who looks creepy and out of place, especially when he was younger.

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Terrifying toad boy from Artsammich.blogspot.com

Sam Nielsen from Artsammich has alleged that some character design was plagiarised from him and Kevin Keele’s previous work.

***

This game’s plot is largely non-existent, which is fine if, like me, you’re more interested in exploring the different levels.

Throughout each level, you watch the blonde man grow from a young child to an adult through the photos kept by who we can assume to be his family members. We finally see him for ourselves at the final level, having become powerful, and wealthy. But to what purpose?

The fact that you are on a journey around the world to track this man’s growth only becomes apparent at the end, and any argument that meeting his family members gives the game continuity falls flat when this cohesion has no actual effect upon the player’s experience of the game. I believe that the developers shoehorned this in in an attempt to give the game some purpose. But again, as this only becomes clear once the game is completed, The Tiny Bang Story is merely a hidden object game with little substance.

The only instance of intrigue (I hesitate to call it a plot point) is when the blonde man sits down with his family for tea, close to a wall where you can access previous puzzles. Sitting apart from the others is an elderly man we haven’t encountered elsewhere in the game. This mystery man is the only thing that leaves players wondering  – who is he? And why is he alone?

Additionally, the meteorite hitting the planet isn’t used in the game for any other reason than to give an excuse to hide puzzle pieces. Why even bother with that prologue if you aren’t going to consider other effects that it would have on the planet and its inhabitants?

***

The Tiny Bang Story is an interesting enough hidden-object puzzle game that fails to draw the reader’s interest for any reason other than camouflaged puzzle pieces. Perhaps this explains why Calibri is yet to release another game.

The Tiny Bang Story is available on Steam, the Apple App Store, and Google Play.

Featured image is from The Tiny Bang Story’s Steam store page. Screenshots are my own unless otherwise stated.

 

Morphopolis review

Morphopolis, released in November 2013 by developer Micro Macro Games, lets you explore a colourful world as various insects. Available on several platforms, it bills itself as a “hidden object insect adventure.” I would have no qualms with this if it were actually true.

While yes, you do spend a good deal of time dolefully clicking to find poorly hidden objects to assist other insects, that’s it. The majority of the game is repetitive legwork, as you go around finding various seeds and foodstuffs, and the occasional missing leg.

The only slight wiff of a plot appears at the game’s end – a remarkably poor place to put it. The ‘Temple of the Insect God’ could have been so much more. Make-believe about little creatures and what they get up to is a fun way of drawing the audience into the story – whether it be fairies, mice, or even insects. This minute temple offered a chance for me to finally get invested in the game…which is when it ended.

***

What had potential was the ability to transform into various insects. Morphopolis doesn’t take full advantage of these different insects.

Some of the insects, such as the bee, and cricket, do have specific abilities that come into play (such as pollination, and somehow cricketing a dry seed pod open) these don’t open up gameplay in any significant way. You are still resigned to toddling at a snail’s pace (insects have an unfortunate tendency to scuttle in real life) across different areas, and clicking, clicking, clicking…

What may have made this more interesting would have just been expanding gameplay, point blank.

***

Morphopolis was apparently based off Machinarium, one of Aminata Design’s more popular games, but has neither the excitement or exploration aspect that the latter was able to cultivate.

In Machinarium, and even Samorost 3 the search is in itself an interesting puzzle, as the player tries to find out what will allow them to progress.

In Morphopolis, the search is repetitive and dull. The surroundings (more on that later) are largely non-responsive, unlike Samorost 3‘s invitation to the player to explore – even to ride a mountain goat. The livelier action of the robot in Machinarium and the little space gnome in the Samorost series draws you in, whereas too much of my time was spent just waiting for my bug to move to another screen.

The controls were janky, the walk cycles were shuddery, and the bugs handled like your Grandpa’s rickety rattletrap. They would often fail to respond when asked to move in a different direction, and the maddeningly slow pace only served to frustrate me further.

***

However, one positive aspect of Morphopolis is the variety of actual puzzles available once you gather enough legs, etc.

Unfortunately, these puzzles tend to vary from simplistic to bizarrely difficult. One lightbug ‘follow-the-leader’ style puzzle, and the final puzzle completely stumped me. This inconsistency indicates to me a lack of thought for the cohesion of the final product.

At the very least, they amended one of their puzzles to allow color-blind people to enjoy the game.

***

Many have praised Morphopolis for its intricate design, and I will give credit where credit is due – the background, at least, has been carefully, and lovingly designed.

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The care taken with this artwork disappoints me in the face of the shoddy animation, and poorly thought-out gameplay.

***

While I managed to snag this game for under a pound, I can’t really justify the time or money I spent on this game. While I can see the appeal for those who enjoy this genre of game, I don’t see the appeal to one with so little plot or care to anything other than background detail. Even Christmas Adventure: Candy Storm has more substance.

 

***

Cover image source

Other screenshots are from Mcro.org

Beyoncé’s Lemonade: A Black American Women’s Reader

A lot of people have already written about Lemonade, Beyoncé’s groundbreaking work that highlighted the unique struggles that Black women face.

I’m not going to be one of them.

As a white woman, I am not the intended audience and will never experience the misogynoir  that Black American women content with on a daily basis. In light of this, why would my voice add anything to the conversation?

Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of articles, essays, videos, and podcasts of African American women sharing their thoughts, critiques, and reactions to Lemonade. 

Articles

Zandria F. Robinson analyses Lemonade‘s Southern gothic, historical and cultural context, as well as noting that the album

concerns itself with legitimating and creating space for a range of black women’s emotions, pushing back against the generational curse of hurt patriarchs and unrelenting state actors who refuse to stop hurting the women and girls who sacrifice the most and love them best.

Brittany Spanos shines a light on Beyoncé’s connection to rock, and the black women in its history.

Tiffanie Drayton criticizes explicit, and implicit colourism in the “Formation” music video and Beyoncés Superbowl performance, while also recognising that one woman alone “cannot represent the full complexity of the black experience. Nor should she be expected to.”

Expanding on the above, scholar Yaba Blay writes about her experiences as a New Orleanian, dark-skinned black woman, and how Beyoncé’s celebration of her creole heritage harkens to antiblackness and colourism.

Essays

bell hook’s Moving Beyond Pain takes a more critical view, stating that

No matter how hard women in relationships with patriarchal men work for change, forgive, and reconcile, men must do the work of inner and outer transformation if emotional violence against black females is to end. We see no hint of this in Lemonade. If change is not mutual then black female emotional hurt can be voiced, but the reality of men inflicting emotional pain will still continue (can we really trust the caring images of Jay Z which conclude this narrative).

DrMyrtleMean’s essay on Therecipeforecstacy.com sees Lemonade in terms of death, and mourning – but also a rebuilding and consolidation of community and family.

It is time to wake up and open your eyes to the reality ofloss. She is not just talking about her personal losses but the losses of the  African American community.  She introduces the injustices perpetrated against young Black men and references the devastation of a Black community with images of the Stadium where people sought refuge after Hurricane Katrina. (pain, images of death)

DrMyrtleMean’s note about the importance of men in Beyoncé’s healing is reminiscent of bell hook’s The Will to Change.

She also speaks to his (the Black man and Jay Z’s)  ability to facilitate her growth. He is magical again. He has the ability to heal her instead of deceive her. He can make her insecurities invisible.  They will love openly for the world to see. But the world will be absent to them. They will again make sweet love All Night long.

Videos

Seren’s (aka Sensei Aishitemasu) free-form vlog discusses her emotional response to the Lemonade film, its imagery, and reminds her audience of Beyoncé’s humanity and life portrayed through her art.

ceedotceeTV’s review sees Lemonade in terms of a cheating partner, and breaks it down by each section, and song.

Ashley Miller’s album review looks at Beyoncé’s musical development, and possible connections between Lemonade and her personal life.

Podcasts

The Unfriendly Black Hotties’ episode LemonSLAYED is an hour-long discussion of their favourite looks, what impacted them the most, and cultural conversations about Lemonade.

Black Girls Talking’s bonus episode on Lemonade declares a state of Beymergency.

Samorost 3 Review

Samorost 3 (2016), created by Aminata Design, is an indie point and click puzzle game available on Mac and PC.

You start the game on this little space gnome’s home planet, and find a magical horn that lets you communicate with the people and things around you. After building a small spaceship out of parts scattered around your neighbourhood, you set off on a grand adventure across the galaxy.

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Unfortunately, the dog doesn’t come with you

In interests of full disclosure, I’m a teensy bit biased. I LOVED this game.

The artwork and level of detail is gorgeous, the soundtrack is beautiful, and I just loved following this little space gnome on an adventure to save the galaxy.

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One more? Ok, last one.

What was a bit confusing for me was that there are some puzzles where I couldn’t see how you would be able to solve it without looking at the hint guide. Perhaps this is a deliberate move from Aminata’s stricter one-hint per level policy in Machinarium?

The game is wordless, allowing it to be enjoyed by people speaking many different languages, and those with dyslexia.

And while I enjoyed this game, there is some colourism and anti-Asian racism. The villain’s skin gets darker and his eyes become longer and more slanted to show his progression into evil – ironic given that he and the other horn-players seem to be modelled after Buddhist monks.

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At $20, this is relatively pricey for the amount of play time you get. It took me about 5 hours to finish the entire game, and perhaps a couple more if you want to thoroughly explore and get all the achievements. But I think it’s absolutely worth the cost, especially considering the effort put into the game and its quality.

However, I absolutely would recommend getting this game – if the price puts you off, try a free trial on Steam to see whether that changes your mind.

Happy exploring!

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