Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Game 32: After Burst


Folks, we're on a roll. Two good games in a row? That's absolutely unheard of around these parts! 

By the way, on the matter of screenshots, please forgive me as I continue fussing with my format. The screenshot on the left has black bars on top and bottom - that's because I'm playing it on a 240x240 screen that can only take full screenshots. Since the Gameboy resolution is not quite square...we get black bars. Unfortunately, I also captured some of these stretched, so there aren't always black bars. My bad.

By the way, do you wanna see the device I'm talking about? It's the little one in this picture. It's called the FunKey S and it's an extremely stupid, yet amazing, thing that I bought about 3 months ago but only received 3 days ago. Due to it's microscopic size I would guess that it's totally unusable for about 60% of the population, but I (and my tiny hands) love the damn thing. It's just so cute!!!

Anyway, the screenshots aren't perfect but I can't resist playing these tiny games on this tiny screen. It feels very fitting.

After Burst is not exactly a tiny game, but it does rule. It's an odd thing to try and describe accurately. Half puzzle game, half artillery game, half platformer, half action game? That seems about right, yeah.

Somehow I never get a screenshot of the first level. This is level 3 or 4.

After Burst is a Japanese only game, but don't let that scare you: it's all in English. Seemingly, you play as a robot defending earth from...mostly other robots? Your goal is to kill the Robot Egg, which without your intervention will surely hatch into an incredible powerful Robot Ostrich which will bury her head in the crust of the earth; the resulting earthquakes will destroy us all.

Sidebar: Did you know ostriches don't bury their heads in the sand because they're stupid? They're turning their eggs, which are buried underground to keep them cool. I guess that animals don't do stupid things that would get them killed for no reason. Wow!

Your little robot has one tool, which is a cannon of varying power and angle. If you don't charge it up, you'll just poot out a little bomb directly onto the ground. Full charge, and it will go completely straight across the screen. In this way, with a little accuracy, you can arc shots in interesting ways and obliterate your enemies.

Pictured: an enemy about to get obliterated

It's not necessarily obvious from the screen above, but at the beginning all of the levels are a single screen. That means no scrolling - what you see is all there is. This makes the game feel almost like an old Tiger LCD game. It really works well on the Game Boy! 

But then level 5 strikes and it looks like this:

The newest fad: walking on bombs

The egg is too high to shoot, even with a clever arcing bomb, and the wall on the left is too high to jump onto. What's a bot to do?

Well, even though that little flying thing is shooting at you, it's also a platform. I ran out all of my lives trying to figure this out and had to start from scratch, but eventually I got it, and it was mind-blowing. It reminded me of the 5th level in DK '94, where you go from playing an arcade game to playing an entirely different kind of game.

im high as hell man

I think this is actually a great indicator of the kinds of twisty turns this game can take. Rarely does an action platformer also require lateral thinking to solve puzzles.

Another common element is destructible blocks and blocks affected by gravity. There are three kinds of blocks at play:

1. Destructible blocks that are fixed in space
2. Destructible blocks that are affected by gravity
3. Indestructible blocks that are affected by gravity

These three are used to create legitimate puzzles where you must destroy blocks in the correct order, or trap yourself in unwinnable situations (or get a block dropped on your head and die). Here's a level rendered unwinnable by my thoughtless Block Blowin Up:

That's one absolutely safe capsu- I mean Egg

See that block to the lower left of the egg, with the line in the middle of it? That's a destructible falling block that I accidentally trapped. I had to blow myself up and restart the level 

If you want to see how different these levels can look after the right blocks are destroyed, go back and look at the screenshot of an enemy about to be obliterated, and compare it to this:

bye egg

It's wild! And this is all on a very strict time limit. Luckily, the game will let you pause it and consider the puzzle, but it's all very hectic.

And guess what? This game has big frickin bosses too! Or, at least one. I could only get to level 10:

Not sure what the function of this machine is, but it seems to primarily Kick Ass

And the bosses are puzzly as well - this one involves shooting the destructible blocks to detach the lower part. That part will drive around on the ground and shoot bullets, but if you're prepared, you can lead it straight into a trap:

Neener neener

Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out what to do from here. I couldn't tell what pieces were vulnerable, if any, and I ended up losing all of my lives. The game gives you passwords every 5 levels but frankly, I forgot to write it down and couldn't access my screenshots at the time, so I quit.

But seriously, this is one of my favorite games I've played for this blog. It's really unique - it combines some of the fundamentals of early games into one weird package. It's not altogether successful: the time limits are a little short, it sucks having to die to reset a puzzle, and having limited lives means repeating the same puzzles over and over which isn't very fun.

But it's way more compelling than I initially thought. I came back to this game over 3 sessions and probably spent about an hour or more on it - about 6 times more than I usually spend on these games. 

My usual thought is "If this is the only game I had to play for 6-12 months, would that be okay?" And this game is hard enough, thoughtful enough, and interesting enough to actually be okay. If I had gotten this as a kid, I would have banged my head against it until I beat all 30 levels, and then I would have gone back to 1CC it. 

Look at that ostrich

But, I am not a kid, and I have better things to do! Like, uh

Anyway, this game also has a 2 player mode which obviously I can't play, but I can play a facsimile of it single player. It's utterly abysmal and I can't imagine it's much more fun for 2 people. Here's what it looks like:

Death Stranding

The terrain is "randomly generated" by dropping destructible blocks in big columns. There's some logic to it - you never get things that are more than 2 blocks height difference. But it is miserable to navigate. The only goal is to kill your opponent, and in single player that opponent comes in the form of increasingly difficult enemies.

But let's be honest: The combat in this game kind of sucks. It's only interesting when it's hand-designed to take advantage of the enemies. These nerds just charge straight at you, shooting once in a while. Oh noooo...

Despite their simple behavior, this is hard as nails. I die in one hit - they take 2 or 3, or can fly, or are tanks etc. It's really just...not good.

I'm used to it by now, thanks

Oh well! Not everything can be gold, and frankly this 2P mode is a side dish to the main course that is the single player game. And lemme tell you, that main dish is a real golden goose.

I've lost control of my metaphors which means it's time to sign off. I never talked about the music: that's because it's just fine. It doesn't detract from this clever little game at all.

Next up is a game with puppets in it that's not Eternal Eyes! Spoiler: it's Australian. See you then!

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