Game Review: When The Past Was Around

When the Past was Around, an indie game by Toge Productions

In the year 2020, many people lost a lot of things but at the same time, learnt to appreciate the things that were still here or left behind. Video games were always a form of art and entertainment for me personally, but this became even more salient last year as most of the world went into lockdown and we were all looking to escape the mundane ‘new normal’.

Enter, When The Past Was Around.

The game tells the tale of Edna, the female protagonist who seems to have lost her way until she meets The Owl (who really is an owl because I questioned this on stream and wondered whether he was a metaphor for something else, turns out not). Since it’s something to be experienced rather than be talked about, just like love and relationships and life in general, I’m just going to skip the plot details and talk about the features that made the game noteworthy for me.

The story is cleverly disguised as a point-and-click visual novel with puzzles that you work on in order to progress through the game. It plays out in the form of unlocking memories and unhiding secrets in the form of clues. Most of the puzzles are quite straightforward and work in a linear fashion though there were a couple that left me doing the ol’ trial-and-error approach.

There is no real-spoken dialogue and the game isn’t text-driven either. However, it does use a beautiful, unique art-style and music to convey certain life lessons, like heartbreak with a delicate sensibility. It is a short and bittersweet experience, but one that I would recommend. Obviously this won’t be a game for everyone, as some will lament the game’s length and replay value but oftentimes I just want to feel something when I play a story-based game and When The Past Was Around certainly delivers.

The prologue for the game is free to play on Steam here, so why not give it a whirl and see if it’s your cup of tea. Otherwise, you can take the plunge for the full game on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One.

P.S. Thanks to Sarah from Toge Productions for the Steam key so I could write this review! :^)

— JP

Game Review: A Short Hike

I got this game as part of the bundle where the money from the sales of these games were going to the Black Lives Matter movement. If you’ve seen me on Twitter, you’ll know that I am a fan of putting resources for good causes. So onto my thoughts about A Short Hike.

Literally, the wind beneath my wings

So how short, is short? Well, that depends on what you make of it! Personally I’d already been recommended this game by at least 2 people, and I can’t say that I’ve been disappointed. And they both said different things to me. The first one said something along the lines of “if you like exploring, I think the game A Short Hike would suit you”, and so I added it to my wishlist. The second one actually recommended me the soundtrack as a song request on stream and I instantly fell in love with it. He claimed he finished the game in exactly 69 minutes.

So a game you can speedrun, as well as take your time with? Sweet.

I had also watched a couple of streams featuring this game because it seemed so charmingly cute. But at the same time, I didn’t want to see the adventure end so I saved myself from watching more than I should and stealing glimpses here and there. And without giving away too much, you play as Claire, a cute little bird who has to – you guessed it – take a hike. On the contrary though, if you’re into catching playthrough videos, I’ve posted my playthrough here. But is it really short? Like I said, it depends. And that is where the beauty in this game lies.

On why you should never skip breakfast

I really, really enjoyed this title – the written dialogue is witty and funny, the soundtrack is just so lovely it’ll warm and calm even the ragiest of hearts and the characters are all small, pixelated but wonderfully colored anthropomorphic animals. I’ll say this about most indie games (because it is mostly true), but this is one charming adventure that you don’t want to miss out on.

In a similar vein to Paul Coelho’s novella The Alchemist, for me though, the journey was more important than the final destination (and if you haven’t read it, I’d highly, highly recommend you do – it’s not really long at all and you might even gain a different perspective of things). So, why not take a break and go on a hike?

– JP

Game Review: Coffee Talk

It’s taken more than a few demos and blind playthroughs on stream for me to get to this point, but I am extremely honored to finally review this game that has come from a Toge Productions, an indie game studio based in sunny Indonesia. I was lucky enough to be gifted an early access key on release, but I took my time playing the game because I almost didn’t want it to end.

I know some people are going to think of VA-11 Hall-A, where you play as a bartender in a cyberpunk setting. An admission here is that I have never played VA-11 Hall-A, so you will get a raw, unadulterated perspective from me here. Nothing against comparing both of these games with each other, but I’m not really in the position to do so.

Freya’s actually one of the more ‘normal’ customers.

Anyway, onto the coffee and the talk! And that is precisely what this game is about. One of the few times a game title actually corresponds to what you actually do. You play as a self-named barista, serving hot beverages – coffee, tea and chocolate concoctions while listening to the problems of the people. Except, wait. These aren’t your average customers. In an alternate universe, set in this year, you are surrounded by other species like vampires, werewolves and orcs.

What really stands out from the game as a true juxtaposition are the extremely human interactions, dialogue and relatable characters who aren’t human. The dialogue is really well written, with words sculpted carefully by Fahmitsu. He manages to create a well-balanced blend of pop culture references, humor and interesting scenarios without sounding forced. Not an easy feat in the world of game writing, let alone writing itself.

The graphical style is pixel art, commonly seen as an ‘ugly’ art-form. Here, it fits in as beautiful and aesthetically charming. There is just something that feels so cozy and familiar about all of this, alongside the music. The soundtrack is simply wonderful, filled with chill beats and that lo-fi feel. It really sets the mood for all the interactions in-game. In fact, it’s so good I regularly listen to the playlist outside of the game which can be found on Spotify and Youtube all thanks to the composer, Andrew Jeremy.

4:20: Look ma, nobody cryin’ over spilt milk…

After playing through all the modes available – firstly the main story mode, with interludes of challenge and endless and I must say that story mode is where things shine. Of course I enjoyed creating my own ‘latte art’ without all the spills. What more could you want?

In short, this game feels like home. Uncomfortable, awkward dialogue and situations which ask for you to be creative, just like real life. This game is for those who like visual novels and story-driven games, point-and-click adventures and when you just want to curl up and relax on a rainy day or a late night, without grinding for levels.

So why not pull up a chair, grind some coffee beans instead and try the free demo? And if you like what you try, then I’m sure the full game is just your cup of tea.

Available on PC, Mac, Switch, PS4 and Xbox One.

Real Neat Blog Award

It’s taken me awhile to respond – have been MIA generally from a lot of the social media stuff but I’ve been tagged for the Real Neat Blog Award!

Thank you to Megan from A Geeky Gal for tagging me (and if you don’t know her blog, then please do go and check it out! I’m not just saying that because she tagged me but she writes about a lot of geeky things like gaming and cosplay which is likely to resonate with you if you’re reading this).

The Rules:

  • Display the Award Logo.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog.
  • Answer the questions of the one who nominated you.
  • Nominate 7-10 bloggers.
  • Ask them seven questions.

Now, I’m late in answering these questions but at the same time I do want to answer them. So here’s my attempt (better late than never, right?):

Megan’s Questions:

  • If you have a New Year’s resolution, what is it? If you don’t, what is one thing you’re working on for yourself this year?

    Hmmm… I can’t really say that I do new year’s resolutions but I do definitely have goals in mind. I’ve noticed in the past however that if I announce it publicly (usually to a friend or on social media) that I don’t really have the willpower to actually accomplish it anymore. The reason why I used to do this was because I felt like someone would hold me accountable, but the truth is they would cheer me on regardless and I’d feel good, but never actually complete what I set out to do.

    Then I came across this article about why sharing goals isn’t always a good idea and everything made sense. So these days, I just say I’m working on something general. I will say that something that is on my radar is my health and I’d like to continue to lower my cholesterol levels to a be within the normal range (general enough, but something I’m working towards, right?)

  • What is something you are looking forward to this year?

    Though we’ve gotten off to a bad start with things like the bushfires in Australia and coronavirus breaking out in China, I believe there’s always something to look forward to. One of these is definitely the new Animal Crossing: New Horizons game launching next month. You bet I’m putting my pre-order in! I’ve dabbled with the mobile version, Pocket Camp which was released more than 2 years ago but I think it’s really great that they’re returning to console. Especially since I just bought a Switch last year.

  • Tell me one thing you love about yourself and expand on it if you’d like.

    My smile. That is all.

    I actually love laughing so I guess I’ll say that I appreciate my ability to laugh at things. Even if they’re not that funny. Maybe I just have a low threshold for laughter.

  • What is something you achieved last year that you are proud of?

    Launched this blog! I had been thinking about it for sometime, because I’ve always felt like it was always easier to express myself in writing rather than talking. Sometimes I run out of breath or water when I’m talking a lot on stream, so it’s nice to let my fingers do the talking every now and then.

  • Tell me about something you’ve watched or read or played lately that you’d recommend to me.

    A little indie game called Coffee Talk. I initially came to know about this game because another streamer and friend of mine, RoninuWu was playing a demo of the game. What drew me in was the beautiful pixel art, the chill music and the dialogue. In fact, this is probably what keeps me playing the game right now – I’ve still yet to complete it, but I am enjoying it and looking to write a review when I’m done 🙂

  • What are three things that you are happy about right now?

    – That I actually have enough money in my bank account to actually buy and replace things without having to worry about it (goodbye unemployed grad days!)

    – Though I may have few friends and family around me, it’s nice to know (and be reminded) that they care about me.

    – Made it another year through life! Leveling up soon 😀

  • What is one hobby you’d like to take up this year?

    I used to paint and draw as a child, but somehow I decided to put that on the backburner as I grew older. I’d like to take this up again and hone my skills and gain a sense of mastery with it. Obviously we’re all work-in-progress, but if I can keep learning and improving then I would say that is the (artistic) direction I want to go in.

    That, or maybe I’ll finally go and enrol in a martial arts class.

    — JP

Now my nominees are *drum roll please*:

Later Levels – a neat blog by Kim who writes about gaming as we gain experience in the real world and in game.

Leeks Plays – an avid Simmer at heart, Krista has been a long-time gaming that gives her thoughts on tech, gaming and lifestyle.

McKenna Talks About Games – pure discussion and a look at video games ranging with a focus on the Pokémon, Animal Crossing and Legend of Zelda franchises.

Everything is Bad For You – an attorney by profession, escaping through games, anime and other weeby pursuits is how this blog rolls.

Gao Li Occasionally Reviews – probably self-explanatory, but he’s talking about a variety of games here.

Why We Play Games – Kelly shares her in-depth thoughts on games and life in general, while analyzing why we choose to push that button.

Tales from the Backlog – because nobody wants to acknowledge the elephant in the room for people like us, except for Carlton.

And my questions for you:

  • What’s your favorite book? If you don’t have one, what is a piece of literature that you’d recommend for me to read and why?
  • If you only got to play one game for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
  • Where’s the next place you’d like to travel to and what are the reasons?
  • How do you life your coffee or tea?
  • Do you have any allergies?
  • Are you a morning lark or a night owl?
  • Who’s that artist or band you have on endless repeat when you’re looking for something to listen to?

Feel free to answer as little to as much as you like (or even not at all), I had fun writing this up and this has helped me break this dry spell and set some writing prompts for the future. Thanks again Megan for letting me do this and thanks for reading!

Jelly Puff’s Top 5 Multiplayer PC Games

Photo by from Pexels

Now, since starting this blog, I haven’t really been keeping up with it (sorry, I know I say I’m busy but at times I also just feel too tired to push myself to write anything though I usually have ideas), so I haven’t really written about gaming. And this is my tagline, and if Jelly Puff doesn’t play games then what does she play? Just for the record though, I play a few musical instruments.

*ba dum tss*

But anyway, this is a game list that I’ve been meaning to write about: multiplayer games and a handful of my favorite ones at that. Now when you think of multiplayer, you may have images of Overwatch or some other FPS shooter in your head, but not me. And those of you have seen me stream know that I am super-duper unlikely to even play FPS games because:

1. I have quite sh*tty aim so I just spam shoot most of the time
2. I generally don’t like to play competitively against other people

So what does that leave me?

Let the countdown begin.

5. Towerfall Ascension
I actually came to know about this game a few years after its release when a former colleague introduced the rest of the office to this game. You see, our boss had a communal Macbook Air that we would use for client meetings and we wondered what games we could play in our downtime. We also had spare Playstation 3 controllers lying around (one of them was mine because I was trying to play another game on my very outdated white Macbook). The result was Towerfall Ascension – a charming 2D pixel-art arena game, also known as the quasi-predecessor of the challenging platformer, Celeste.

And yes, yes I enjoyed the battle royale modes reminiscent of my childhood days with Super Smash Bros 64 where we would play to eliminate each other sans arrows but more importantly, I discovered the beauty of co-op mode. Initially, it just started with me and one of my other coworkers playing the standard 2-player co-op mode which eventually led to us buying the Dark World expansion pack so we could use 4 players. The reason why this is lower on my list is because this game previously supported only local co-op, but with the new Remote Play feature from Steam, playing online with friends is now a long-awaited but welcomed possibility.

4. Don’t Starve Together
Let me just preface this by saying that I never played the original Don’t Starve. I actually came to know about this game because I caught another streamer, elimere playing this game on her channel. I also just happened to be lucky enough to win a copy of this game in a giveaway she was doing and ended up learning how to play it on stream with her and some other players.

Now I don’t play this game quite often enough to even say I’m an amateur since I am a very, very casual player. That being said, I enjoy crafting things and working together with my friends to learn how to survive, while trying to keep most of my sanity.

3. 100% Orange Juice
I’ve also just come to know about this gem of a party game. Think Super Mario Party board game but with anime characters, trading cards and funky music. Now I haven’t played against my friends (I’m a lover, not a fighter (●’◡’●)), just CPU players and co-op mode and this is a pretty fun game. I like how you can play this game while doing other things in the background (cough cough, eating), since you roll some dice, make a move and then wait for other players to do the same.

2. Golf With Your Friends
I don’t play golf IRL. I have friends IRL, but this game is completely online which is a really great way to hit some green with some online friends (or not). This was also thanks to another friend and streamer, ChampionTofu, who is on an indefinite hiatus though he says it is unlikely he is coming back to streaming (but you never know and I still hope). I like this game very much. But at the same time, you start to question whether your friends would really knock you over just to get a hole in one or a birdie.

The answer: They would.

1. Overcooked 1 & 2
Now this game is what sweet dreams are made of. It is the true test of friendship and brings out the Gordon Ramsay in all of us. It confirms my suspicions that a busy commercial kitchen is a hellish nightmare that has no place in my reality. I however, do enjoy looking at in-game food, the time-management and fast-paced action which does not include guns or killing anyone.

And with the new throw ability in Overcooked 2, like a sharp double-edged knife, it adds another layer of complexity and hilarity. The times I have seen completed dishes being thrown in bins has caused me to think very much about food waste. I also think about that time we were just two points off from achieving the third star on a level.

Of course, there’s way more multiplayer games I do enjoy playing on PC and other consoles not listed here. I just don’t tend to play as many games as I used to with other people because either adulting eats up our free time or some other reason.

Anyway, what are some of your favorite multiplayer games to play? Are you like me and enjoy co-op games? Tell me about it!

Welcome To My Blog (Take #2)

Now this is my true introduction post, but not exactly my first (you can catch the Hello World post here if you missed it, or want to revisit it). If my first post was a greeting, then this is like an extended handshake. Now I actually get to tell you a little more about what this blog is about and what you can expect to see around here:

  • Gaming: game reviews, my own streams (self-indulgent or hint of masochism maybe, but you never know who’s watching or reading) and other gaming related topics like my ever-growing backlog (HALP).
  • Opinion Pieces: like I mentioned previously, there are some things on Twitter that I think I better explained in 250 characters or a thread. This could be my view on various topics like politics, music, news articles, etc.
  • Poetry + (Other) Creative Writing: including short stories, especially flash fiction.
  • Journaling: just pages from my life in general.
  • Miscellaneous Entries: self-explanatory, hopefully.

As with anything I do, I hope that you as readers find something useful in the content I create and maybe I’ll even pick up some new people. And by useful, I don’t necessarily mean gaining knowledge or picking up a new perspective. If my content makes you feel a certain way and you are better for it, even if only marginally better, then I believe the content has served its purpose.

Welcome (again) and hope you enjoy the ride!