Our game guy Kyle is still short on cash, so we’re continuing JK Geekly’s Free Video Game Summer. Last week’s games didn’t have too much in the way of story, but this week’s games will make up for that shortcoming. Let’s get to it.
Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden
(Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley Saga)
Um. It took me a week to figure out what I downloaded with this game. I have to give it to Tales of Game’s Studios (that’s their spelling, not mine), they went with an unlikely hero and a bizarre story.
The year is 2053, 12 years after the Great B-Ball Purge, also known as “B-Ballnaught,” and the world is still out of sorts after the first Chaos Dunk, a jam so powerful its mere existence threatens the balance of chaos and order, when it suffers a second Chaos Dunk. You play as one of the last basketball greats, Charles Barkley, who fights for basketball freedom. Yeah, the story’s that silly, and I love the warning that pops up on the screen when you first start a game. “Warning: this game is canon.” What?
Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden plays like a classic Super Nintendo JRPG, from its graphic style, game play, and even its broken English. The story is so weird, engaging, and set in a post-apocalyptic world, where folks may not speak or write correctly, that I can forgive a lot of the poor grammar. The story itself may be nonsensical, but Tales of Game’s put a lot of work into it, and it shows. They’ve built one of the most unique gaming worlds you’ll find.
The game play is also surprisingly deep. Barkley Gaiden—I’ll just call this game Barkley Gaiden for now—does a great job of aping Chrono Trigger and JRPGs of that ilk. You can see potential enemies, and sometimes they may run at the player and attack if the player moves into their line of sight. Once combat’s initiated, each player has special attacks or abilities they can use. Many of these actions require timed button presses, like the Mario RPG series, and some are accuracy-based, gaining more power for better accuracy, similar to Legend of Dragoon. From a game play aspect, Barkley Gaiden is a hodge-podge of JRPG goodness.
Getting back to the story, Barkley Gaiden makes little to no sense and the characters’ dialogue is so over-the-top gritty that it reads like an angst-ridden teen wrote it, but you can’t beat a cybernetic Vince Carter: Vinceborg. Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is the game a foul mouthed Mel Brooks might make if he wanted to parody a JRPG and basketball. If that odd premise appeals to you, or if you love classic JRPG play, Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is worth a look. Just be prepared for zany things like a heartless, post-apocalyptic Barkley to sing, “get a job” to a homeless man.
You can’t find Barkley Gaiden on Steam, Origin, or any app store. Here’s a link to the game’s page:
Remember, “if you can’t slam with the best, jam with the rest.” Oh, man, that’s cornier than Nebraskan summers.
The Way of Life: Free Edition
I was interested in The Way of Life when I downloaded it off of Steam. The premise intrigued me. You play groupings of three mini-games with the same character as a child, adult, and elder. Unfortunately, the game’s execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Even with overlooking the poor English translation, bugs and glitches, and the fact that I played the free (limited) edition as opposed to the definitive (paid and expanded) edition, you’re left with The Way of Life pigeon holing you into playing the game a certain way and using clichéd life experiences.
The child games were okay and varied—as varied as much as The Way of Life gets—but the adult games were The Way of Life preaching what’s wrong with the world (living to make money instead of living your life for your loved ones), while the elder games depicted an old guy afraid of death. I like video games that send a clear message but I don’t like playing a sermon, so the adult games left me miffed. I’ve also met plenty of elders who had made their peace with death, so the elder games don’t ring true.
I can forgive a lot in a video game—I can even forgive most of what I’ve mentioned so far—but The Way of Life’s worst offense rests with basic game design. You need to know four things in a game: who you are, what you’re doing, why you’re doing what you’re doing, and how do you win? The Way of Life fails to provide feedback on all four accounts.
There was a moment, in one of the child games, when a game bug sent me through a building, and I didn’t care enough about the character or what I was doing to be frustrated. It was an “oh, well” moment. That’s not a good sign, and The Way of Life is my first hard pass.
Super Crate Box
Super Crate Box is another game that doesn’t give every shred of information about its scenario as you play, but it doesn’t matter as much. Monsters are falling from the sky. I don’t know if they’re demons, aliens, or failed government experiments, but you’re a dude fighting for his life, picking up every box of weaponry you can find, and ripping the monsters a new one. This is a gun totting, adrenaline pumping, platform game. Think the original Mario Brothers meets Contra. Yeah, this game provides some dumb fun.
I stink at Super Crate Box, but I like the game. Each weapon behaves differently. Shotguns spray rounds. Revolvers fire single, powerful shots. Bazookas take time to charge and explode on impact. Disc guns ricochet once and can kill you or your enemies if the munition hits on the bounce. The mini-gun fires copious amounts of bullets, but it yields kickback. And so on and so forth. The trick is that you don’t know which weapon you’ll get with each box and picking up a new box can be deadly if you get accustomed to using a specific weapon. Before you think that you’ll stick with your favorite weapon the entire time, think again. You only progress in level after you collect enough crates, so you have to collect as many super crate boxes as you can. Did I mention that Super Crate Box is tough?
The monsters also gain speed and strength with each box you collect, and that makes the gameplay even more difficult, but what makes Super Crate Box stand out is the game’s intuitive nature. You can trick the game into thinking you’re a novice by dying several times in quick succession. Super Crate Box will ease up and that’s how you can progress to the next level. But something tells me you won’t have to intentionally die. Super Crate Box is so difficult that you’ll die whether you want to or not. I don’t know how many times I dodged a monster just to fall into a fire pit. If you like old school platforming games with punishing difficulty, you should give Super Crate Box a try.
That’s all I have for this week of JK Geekly’s Free Video Game Summer. I may have some more gaming to do in the next week, so until we meet again, thanks for reading.