Bundle Reviews part 2: A Short Hike through Art Sqool

A few more items from from  the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality 

I’m still just going down the list so today I’m looking at:

A Short Hike, Gladiabots, Lancer Core Book, MewnBase, and Art Sqool.

A Short Hike: A game about climbing a mountain to get better cell reception.

This game is pure joy. It was very hard to stop playing and I have a couple things to do, but it’s cute, fun, and movement is really nice. I never feel like I am fighting this game to do something, and as simple as the story is, it did make me tear up at one point. This is a game for people who want to hike, climb, and soar through the air. It’s not going to have much for people who want hard challenges.

Gladiabots: A robot strategy programming game.

Low poly robots, lots of exciting lines and overlays and lovely glowing blues, it looks exciting!

It’s not really exciting.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun and very interesting. You pick your robot types then program them with a series of connected customized command and decision modules then they fight all on their own with no further input from you.

This is not a game of piloting a robot and going pew pew at other robots, it’s a game of strategic setup and programming where the actual battle is against other players programmed robots. The battle itself is sort of an afterthought, the winner and loser are decided before you really see anything, then the battle is downloaded so you can watch it play out. You get no say once the match starts.

This is a game for someone who is totally fine with 12 to 18 tutorials before you know enough to start playing. I got through them, had one match I lost really badly, and put this one back on the imaginary shelf. It’s neat, and I wouldn’t mind exploring it more, but with 1731 more things to look at, this one is not grabbing me and demanding my attention.

Lancer Core Book: This is a tabletop RPG of spaceship, big robots, and swashbuckly action.

I backed this game on Kickstarter and am still waiting for the printed book, but for now the 1st edition PDF has been released. I have been avoiding reading too deeply into it until the bok comes and I can give it proper attention, but I’ll skim in a little now.

Giant Robot RPGs are in a bit of a slow spot right now. With the painful failure of the Mekton reboot, and everything Battletech related being in a sort of wait-and-see mode until the full rulebook actually hits shelves it’s been a while since we could properly stomp our way through city-scapes throwing multiple block long punches and raining missiles like hailstones. Yes there have been a few games that touch on it, but nothing really big has captured this once fertile market in a while.

A lot of people are hoping Lancer is the next big thing.

In overall look Lancer is very pretty. The art and layout give me a very late 1990s to 2000s feel, but turned up a bit. There is a slight lack of cohesion in that the multiple artists styles don’t really mesh into each others as much as some modern games try to do, but it is better than many of the most beloved games managed back when this sort of game was king, and the quality is overall much higher.

There is a LOT of system in this book.

Mecha based games kind of beg for detailed tactical systems that specifically address as much as possible. Exact ranges and ratings and math matters in a very technical game, and this is no exeption. In the 432 pages of this core book, we don’t get to the world, plot, or story until page 334. Flavor text and images sell you on what kind of game this is going to be throughout, but in a world with FATE, Mothership, and Savage Worlds, and where even Dungeons & Dragons has their core system down to about 180 pages this is a bit of a beast!

Now, the very heart of the system behind Lancer is pretty sleek. The four or five pages explaining the basic concepts gives me a pretty good idea what this is going to look like in use… And I’m not sure I am in love.

I would put the complexity of Lancer at about the same as Pathfinder or slightly higher. This is a little beyond what I tend to like these days, a little more thinking and math behind every die roll than I would prefer. I’ll have to dive deeper to see how it all comes together.

Lancer feels like a bit of a throwback to the way we made games about 20 years ago… but a throwback made by people who really understood what was great about those games and wanted to bring some of it back. I will have to take some time with this to see where my sensibilities fit in these days. I am very excited for the printed book. It was due much earlier in the year, but as such things can go, and with the added excitement of the apocalypse happening, it should exist… soon.

Mewnbase: A survival/resource management/base building/etc game of keeping a moonbase from dying… with cats.

So this game lets you customize your cat a little…. I named mine Mr Piddles and gave his spacesuit a green visor. Then after a very brief tutorial you are left to your own devices.

It’s a little bit like a 2d minecraft in space but with less robust building… I have played a few games along these lines, one or two really fun ones on the ipad, and I don’t mind them at all. I’m setting this one aside for now, perhaps some day we will find out what became of Mr Piddles though.

Art Sqool: A game about art and making art and art school.

This game looks deeply weird… I’m into that.

It seems to be a musical?

Okay… so you are Froshmin, an art student being taught by an AI neural net. You are given assignments then set loose in the world to find pigments, brushes, tools, and to draw something which the AI then judges before sending you back out…

The graphics are state of the art Amiga demo disk 3d, the controls are hot garbage… moving around is actively unpleasant, and the music is… really neat!. Game play is confusing and little or no guidance is given on why you are graded high or low.

I think with the proper pharmaceuticals or perhaps a well placed head wound this game could be very interesting. I am shoving it back in the sack possibly never to be seen again. I wish I had the soundtrack though.

10 down, 1731+ to go. Have a Nice Day Everybody!

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