Iconoclasts review and impressions

At first glance, Iconoclasts might look like another pixel art styled game, but style is one of the many things that bring its charm. From the very start, there is something endearing about the game. It’s easily seen and felt throughout.

You play as Robin and occasionally some of the other characters that grace the games presence. Robin is the game’s displaced, silent protagonist who has just recently lost her father and lives in a dystopian like world where things are heavily controlled, particularly the building and repairing of technology. One substance, ivory, has been powering most of the worlds technology and is nearly depleted.

Many things are at play in Iconoclasts, story elements bob and weave, coming in and out of the picture at the right moments, emerging at pivotal times and revealing themselves in just the right way. Dialog and cutscenes play out in text, sometimes emoted for extra emphasis. And believe it or not, you get a real good sense for each of the characters, feeling their purpose and motivations. They don’t feel fake or tacked on. The story is one of the best parts of Iconoclasts.

Controlling Robin is easy, fluid and simple. Most movements and attacks work as expected. Because of the that, the puzzles never feel difficult, but a treat to figure out. Like any Metroidvania inspired platformer, you can expect the check boxes to be met and completed within the boundaries of the game’s own merits.

As mentioned above, the graphics style don’t always do the game justice, but the more you play it the more it grows on you along with the game’s soundtrack. From the characters expressions to the animations to the level design… the more you play it, the more you realize it was all meant to be.

Iconoclasts has a decently long play length, but can be mastered, if you’re up for that. It also doesn’t feel that difficult, but that can also be changed if you feel the need to. Boss fights are fair, creative and are actually a big highlight. Collectibles are scattered throughout the world and are useful to an extent, but once you find a loadout that works for you, you probably won’t be needing to craft with them too often.

I never felt bored with Iconoclasts, frustrated or angry. I had genuine, honest fun through my entire playthrough and always wanted to see what would come next for Robin and her companions. Just remember that as you play this that one guy, Joakin Sandberg, pretty much did all of this.

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The Mega Man X stage select theme is amazing

You probably already know that it is. I was actually trying to compile a list of some of my favorite character/stage select themes and I could only come up with a few that I really liked. For example, the Street Fighter II and Mega Man 8 are pretty great, but nothing matched the affinity I had for the X1 theme.

But, let’s start with the ones I do like. Street Fighter II. It progresses nicely, doesn’t get on your nerves when it repeats and prepares you mentally for the fight, as all character select music should do.

 

 

And the aforementioned Mega Man 8 stage select song is decent too. It pulses with a great dance beat and synths that are easy going. It’s also kinda upbeat and doesn’t over do itself by being too complicated.

 

 

Street Fighter III: Third Strike definitely goes for something different. It’s hip-hop, funky and just down right cool sounding. It might be the only video game rap song that doesn’t sound dumb as you listen to it. It’s straight dope!

 

 

Nothing hits harder than the Mega Man X stage select theme. And I mean nothing. Just listen to the guitar riff, the snare drum and driving bass… it gets you pumped and ready for battle.

 

 

This song is just begging for a great hard rock or heavy metal cover. And I found a few that are actually pretty good. What actually surprised me the most was how good it could sound remixed on a Sega Genesis. Still, not as good as the Super Nintendo original.

 

 

Basically, we’ve learned that Capcom makes the best character and stage select music, ever.

Why would you throw away the game box?

I always keep the packaging from a game and its contents (manual, map, inserts etc.)… Whenever I walk into my local game store I see plenty of games without their home: a jewel case or cardboard box.

The thought of it is quite disheartening for a collector and fan of old school games. When I was younger, my father would always tell me to keep the instructions and box for anything I bought, even if it was something as simple as an alarm clock. That same principle applies to games new and old. Games these days don’t really come with that much besides a little DLC redemption slip inside the box. It’s a step to be environmentally sound and a sign that game distributors are ready for consoles to embrace digital distribution.

Even the last generation still had manuals that spanned over 20 pages and other inserts stuffed into them. Games before this digital age we play in now were meant to be kept with their instructions and in their original packaging. So again, I have to the fathom the idea of why these games might be found in a store without a box and manual.

Before the game is sold back to the retailer in its “naked” condition, what did the game go through to deserve such treatment? Did the dog eat it? But, being realistic, it is probably more of a personal preference. Keep the box or ditch it?

The older a game gets, the more value it will fetch the closer it is to its original state. Take care of your game and not just because of the price aspect. Take care of it because somebody down the line will appreciate it when it comes with the box and manual.

The best hardware and technical innovations from past generations

These buttons are usually found on the top of the controller and typically have a secondary function in games. Though, in first person and third person shooters, they arguably function has the main buttons.  Over time, shoulder buttons have been further innovated upon with the creation of pressure triggers seen on the Dreamcast and a second row seen on the PlayStation home consoles.

  • Favorite usage: off-hand grenades in Halo

Mode 7 and true 3D environments

A flat, infinite and ever expanding plane probably gave the perfect illusion gamers needed for a pseudo 3D experience but, it wasn’t until CD based systems really started to take advantage of this. Two dimensions was pretty much the only aspect gamers knew and slowly, but surely that notion has reversed. Though, there are still very notable 2D based games around …

  • Favorite usages: Racing in F-Zero (SNES), navigating world maps in Square RPGs

Standard four controller ports

While this isn’t such a big thing now, but having four controller ports built into a system was an ingenious perk. Way before Nintendo implemented this on the N64, two ports were normally found on systems. Microsoft and Sega followed suite on this with their consoles, but Sony never did. Nowadays, USB ports and wireless signals are the standard for controller connections instead of a propriety connection shipped with a console.

  • Favorite usage: GoldenEye 007 multiplayer (N64)

Battery back up memory

Passwords were a great feature, but having to write them down all the time was a pain. Though passwords hung around while battery saves on the cart were being implemented, this function would later evolve into memory cards for CD based systems and hard disk drives further along into the future starting with the Xbox.

  • Favorite usage: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Dual analog joysticks

Looking back, first person shooters were awkward at first, GoldenEye being one of them! Holding down a shoulder button for precise aiming? Now that’s a thing of the past! Innovating controllers like the Dual Shock really paved the way for quicker and easier camera controls as well as a dedicated stick for looking/aiming.

  • Favorite usage: Xbox 360 controller

Earthbound has copy protection?

When I first heard about it, I didn’t even know it was possible for a Super Nintendo game to do such things outside of region locking. Earthbound does multiple things to make sure you’re playing the game legitimately.

The first line of defense is not out of this world, it just makes sure you’re playing it in the correct region for your system.

Part two of the copy protection comes when the game checks for SRAM. Anything more than 8kb gets you trouble with this screen below.

Phew … two different and separate tiers of copy protection. That’s got to be enough! Wrong! If any of the above features are disabled, the game will eventually notice that the programming has been changed and increase the number enemy encounters in numerous areas! This is sure to make a playthrough harder and much more frustrating.

The little green sprouts and the dinosaur looking thing are the enemies

If that’s not enough to thwart potential pirates, the programming within Earthbound supposedly also checks multiple times while you’re playing, so parts one and two could possibly be implemented at any time. If the third zone of protection isn’t enough to scare you away, there is one last trick the game will pull.

After you finish the final battle, the game will freeze just before the ending. Upon resetting, you will find all your save games erased. The video below details the steps of Earthbound’s copy protection as well as the final tier in action.

Five games you need to play from this generation

This list is in no particular order and is purely based upon my own experiences. The majority of my choices were picked for their storytelling. This generation of gaming has been more interactive than ever before, letting the player delve into worlds we could only dream of as well as making hard and taxing moral choices.

Red Dead Redemption

Rockstar surprised gamers in many ways. Red Dead Redemption took the open world sandbox gameplay from Grand Theft Auto and dropped it into the Wild West. Combined with a polished gaming experience, we were introduced to a main character that not only had purpose but, a likable relation that’s hard to pull off. Multiplayer was also included in RDR and it definitely doesn’t feel shoehorned. And let’s not forget its awesome DLC: Undead Nightmare.

Portal

Rarely do puzzle games catch my eye but, anything from Valve is worth a look. Blending innovative first person puzzle solving with the unique portal gun and “in the moment” storytelling, there is no way to ignore this game as one of the best of its generation. At the start, things seem normal however, from the lack of human employees, the writings on the wall, GLaDOS’s glitchy voice and progressively dilapidating rooms, it’s easy to see that not everything is right within the Aperture Science facility.

Mass Effect 2

Born from RPG mechanics and taking a more action oriented approach for the sequel, this is the best game out of the Mass Effect trilogy. Starring your “Shepard” from the first game, you must guide him or her through even tougher choices with even higher stakes. The characters are deep, the scenarios are bigger and weapons and powers really make a boom here. It’s a memorable experience and the things you accomplish (or don’t) really have a lasting impact. You tell the story in Mass Effect and the second entry makes sure you won’t forget your actions.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Once again, the sequel is the strongest. Nathan Drake blasts away countless bad guys while trying to hunt for the ultimate treasure. It sounds mindless but, UC2 is not to be missed. Naughty Dog programmed solid shooting and multiplayer making for an impressive improvement over the first installment. But what about the story? Oh yeah … there’s that! It feels like an Indiana Jones movie of epic proportions laced with adrenaline pumping set pieces. Not only that, great characters are introduced and developed through spot on voice acting. In UC2, it’s truly about what the game puts you through.

 

Journey

As you’ve probably already seen, this PSN exclusive has topped several lists already. Though it is short, the title lives up to its name. You will indeed be taking a journey through several landscapes, experiencing numerous graphical wonders and scenarios unlike any other game you will play. It includes an incognito cooperative experience, meaning that you will be joined randomly with another player who bears no name! You won’t find out who the passengers are on your quest until the end making yet another aspect of Journey something you need to experience rather than just read about.