Rayman (GBC) Review

Developer: Ubisoft Studios SRL
Release Date: 03/29/2000
Platform(s): Gameboy Color

I really do miss the days where different versions of games would come out on different platforms. It added some interesting variety and sometimes you'd get very interesting takes on the same concept. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater for the PS1 is an amazing game, and the Gameboy Advance Tonky Hawk games were a great translation of that style of game to an isometric perspective that worked on the GBA. Now translating a platformer to a portable system doesn't require the same amount of ingenuity, but Rayman for the Gameboy Color is an interesting downport of what is a more visually stunning PS1 game to the small screen.

The most major change from the PS1 Rayman experience is that there are no boss fights except the final one against Mr. Dark. I am not too torn up about this as I always found the HP sponge bosses of Rayman 1 a bit dull to do after a while. Combat in general is deemphasized in this version, which is good as it does feel a bit clunky when it does come up. It felt like I had trouble making punches connect when it looked like it should have, and similarly I felt like there were some general hitbox issues on receiving damage as well. This doesn't come up too much, but it is frustrating when it does. Overall the controls are a bit muddy, but serviceable most of the time. The GBC version really de-emphasizes combat overall to focus more on platforming.

The level design is overally enjoyable and not as difficult as the original game.. You do still have some of the somewhat maddening "walk somewhere to invisibly trigger a change elsewhere" elements that Rayman 1 had, but I didn't get stuck on those too much. Exploration for electoon cages is the main collectible and each level has a different number of them available, indicated in the HUD at the bottom. Once you beat the game, you unlock a world map that lets you go back to the earlier levels to wrap up your collection. Like the original there are several levels based around rising water that I had a bit of trouble with when hanging from ledges was involved, but I didn't get stuck too much in this game. It's a much easier experience overall than the original game its based on, which is nice and in combination with the smaller set of levels and worlds, lets it be a bit of a breezy play through.

I liked the levels that mirrored the original's Band Land, called Airy Tunes in the GBC version. It captures the same feel and look as that level and has some fun new platforming gimmicks original to this game. My only major complaint is that several of the worlds are varaitions on "forest" as the theme and look a bit samey. I would have liked a few more different-looking zones to play in, but what is there is good. The game also has a secret final world once you collect all the electoon cages that serves as a final challenge as well. I played it a bit using a password to get there, because I didn't enjoy the game enough to 100 percent it.

The graphics attempt to capture some of the detail of the PS1 game, but it can make the screen a bit busy. I think it looks good overall, but there were a few times where I wasn't sure what was interactible or just part of the background. Rayman's sprite looks good, as do the enemies and some of the small "cutscenes" between worlds.

I would reccomend giving it a shot for at least a few worlds if you're a Rayman fan or looking for a platformer from the era you haven't tried before. Not the best platformer, but it was a real pleasant surprise to play a Rayman game I didn't know existed.

Rayman Redemption Review

Developer: @Raymanni
Release Date: 06/19/2020
Platform(s): PC

Rayman Redemption is a fangame that remakes and reimagines the original Rayman title created in Game Maker Studio. Redemption is a surprisingly faithful adaptation for a recreation in Game Maker Studio, with the physics feeling very similar to me, only a few thingss around the rings feeling noticeably different to me. While a faithful recreation of the basic physics and gameplay, it's a distinctly different game that reimagines a more modern take on the original Rayman game.

The original Rayman is a difficult game, with the later levels and most of the bosses causing me a lot of heartache as a kid. Redemption smooths a lot of these out. Rayman starts with most of his powers already unlocked, you do not have to unlock the ability to punch or use the helicopter hair anymore. The most dramatic change to his moveset is in the helicopter hair which now works like in the sequels, letting you slow your fall as long as you hold the jump button down. Additionally, you start off with more lives, have more HP, have infinite continues, and level layouts are made easier for the most part. Despite some of these changes to the difficulty, it is still very difficult in the late game and the bosses still continue to be healthsponges.

Redemption isn't exactly a replacement for the original game, it has a lot more differences than just a simple remake and is more of its own game. The original Rayman has about 18 levels, while Redemption has about 30 and the original levels have quite a few changes. The quality of these vary, but I appreciate it expanding on some of the one-off gimmicks from the original. Features like the super helicopter, bean sprouts, and moskito show up more often, and the Candy Chateau is expanded from the single level it was in the original game. I don't care for the dark level gimmicks where you only have rayman's fist providing light for the most part, but other new gimmicks such as the rainbow paint punches that create new platforms feel like they could have been in the original game.

A screenshot of the Toyland level

I do at times wish there were two version of this, one that was a more faithful version of the original with the extra lives and widescreen and one that contained all of this new content. While I do like a lot of the new content — the new world Playtopia looks a bit off in some of the backgrounds, but it does fit in style to the original game — the game can feel a bit unsure of its identity at times. Some decisions, such as removing some of the minor routing choices from the game feel strange, but as a whole I really enjoy Redemption's love for the original game and the series as a whole. There are new collectibles in each level and there are shops you can spend tings in. The shop with its unlockable skins (including the SNES prototype graphics) was a great addition.

If you enjoy the Rayman series, I'd recommend this game whole heartedly. I don't think it's a replacement for the originala or anything, but if you enjoy Rayman 1, this really scratches the itch of more content for Rayman 1. Ryemanni even made a new version of the old PC level editor that includes all of the features of Rayman Redemption and more. All-in-all a really cool fan project that makes me want to play the older Rayman games again.

Work Music - 6/29/2021 - Bleeding Keytar ~ Stevia Sphere

I think this is a really fun one, I like the blend of different styles for this album that still manages to sound cohesive. It's got a bit of a rock vibe on some tracks. I'm looking forward to the rest of this series from Stevia Sphere.

Favorite Track: Surfing on Lava

Work Music - 6/28/2021 - Music for Slime Creatures ~ Stevia Sphere

New job, new energy to update this blog again. First day here and I remembered Stevia Sphere was doing a new project I hadn't caught up on yet and it turned out the first albums came out 2 days ago. I'm a big fan of her work, particularly her pine voc and glaciere stuff. Her new project is The Rainbow series, where she does a series of seven more downtempo albums around a different concept (and presumably color). This is the first one, Music for Slime Creatures, which has a lot of chiptune in it. I'm not amazing at writing about music, one of the reasons I started doing these posts was to try to get better at talking about music, but I've mostly just written a sentence or two.

Still not going to write much about this one, but I will say I like that it has a mix of chiptune and non-chiptune in each track. I feel like I haven't heard much chiptune layered with other stuff where it works well and I think it was done well in this album.

Favorite Track: Synth Gunk

Work Music - 12/11/20 Deep Breakfast

Really liked this album, never heard of this guy before. Not sure why the first track sounds like an ambient cover of "Call Me" by Blondie.

Work Music - 12/4 - Gaia by Blank Banshee

Not a fan of this one. I don't know why my expectations were higher considering I really only loved 0 and liked MEGA. This one is more like MEGA, but idk didn't grab me.

War in the Pocket

After finishing the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime I decided to go with one of the OVAs that takes place during the events of the original series instead of jumping straight into Zeta Gundam and specifically chose 0080 War in the Pocket. After the first of the very few gundam battles focused heavily on the major devastation that was caused from a mobile suit just being knocked to the ground, I knew this was the right choice. I always knew about the gundam meme. You know, the "cool robot" "war is bad" one, but War in the Pocket would need the meme reversed.

I didn't think Mobile Suit Gundam was particularly subtle in its message, but War in the Pocket could not be more blatant. It's limited nature and attention alllows it to focus a lot more closely on what the war means to civilians. Taking place just before the side 6 episodes of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, familiarity with the series isn't needed to enjoy this. The show explains the important parts: there's a war, the colony is neutral, there's a federation base illegally building a super weapon, the rebels (Zeons) will violate interstellar agreements and nuke the place to stop the weapon if their small strike team can't take it out. The series follows two main protagonists, Bernie — one of the rebels on the strike team — and a boy named Al.

Al starts off the series running around and playing war with his friends excited at the chance to see a mobile suit battle and collect treasure from the battlefield and wreckage. When he meets Bernie after he loses his first real fight as a mobile suit pilot he is enraptured with the thriff of being involved in the war and seeing the fighting up close. As the strike team plans its guerilla attack Al inserts himself in their plans. Al's neighbor Christina who works for the federation gets involved and she and Bernie strike up a somewhat flirty relationship. I do wish Christina got a bit more screentime, but I did really enjoy the relationship between Al and Bernie who quickly become like brothers to eachother as they work together.

As the series progresses, Al's innocent joy in the cool robots and the explosions melt away as he sees more and more of the brutality of war up close. Al is the guy in the famous meme, he's a kid who is entranced by these cool robots, the explosions, the paraphenalia of war. As he sees firsthand the horror of war, people he knows dying before his eyes, his actions helping the war effort continue, he begins to lose his taste for it with later episodes showing him horrified at the site of the shell casings and pieces of bombs his friends collected, no longer interested in joining in their fun.

Gundam was made to sell toys, and boys like Al are the target market for those toys. It critiques war, but it also does have to make it cool otherwise kids wouldn't buy the robots and toy weapons. It's easy to criticize Gundam for glorifying what it claims to critique and it is a very difficult line to draw. War in the Pocket does this very well though. There are two new mobile suits introduced that are variations of the Gundam from the original series and a new, blue Zaku — I do really like that blue Zaku — but they don't get much screentime and it shows the destruction and harm to civilians they cause. And I don't know if it's the much higher budget this series had compared to the original, but they seem to move more stiffly, like they are the large, metal machines they are. That may also have to do with none of the battles taking place in space, just on Side 6 and the fact that humanoid robots make less sense with gravity.

The series isn't too long or too short. Six episodes long, it tells a very poignant story of how war affects everyone and the loss of childhood innocence. There are a couple episodes in particular that really gutted me. The ending in particular will stick with me for a while and cleverly tied back in with the original Mobile Suit Gundam episodes about Side 6. It is without a doubt one of my favorite anime now and I think a good onboarding ramp to Gundam, though it may set the bar a bit too high. I'm only two series in though so I may be surprised the further I go in.

war in the pocket was sad

Thoughts on We Know the Devil

This game is why I started this site. I wrote far too many words about it, realized it was too many words and stopped and shelved it. So I'm repurposing some of it for here.

We Know the Devil is a horror visual novel that takes place over the course of 12 hours at a Christian summer camp and follows three troubled teens: the tomboy, Jupiter, who tries to always do the right thing; the shy, bullied Venus whose words can be subtly, bitingly cruel; and Neptune, the meangirl who wants her friends to stop trying so hard to be good. It's approaching the end of their time at camp and Group West knows their turn to be sent to the cabin is coming up. It's their turn to be on watch for the devil and drive him off.

We Know the Devil has a unique aesthetic that immediately catches your attention. While it's not uncommon for visual novels to use drawn characters and photographs as backgrounds, the black and white, rougher style of the characters works a lot better than others I've seen, and the dark, synth soundtrack that feels out of a John Carpenter film brings it all together.

The story focuses on alienated teenagers, religion, social pressure, LGBT identities and repression. As you play through it, you will be asked to choose which two of the three characters will be together in a given scene, which is how the routes are handled. Not all combinations are available for every scene and you will always force one to be alone. I really related to the topics of repression and fear throughout it. If the basic concept of horror aesthetic, gay teens and a religious summer camp interests you and you haven't played it, please go check it out, it's available on steam and itch.io ($6.66) and has a prequel demo called We Know the Demo.

The Summer Camp the girls are at is never named and the game only has scattered mentions of its bigger picture. We don't get a lot of answers as to the world of We Know the Devil (WKTD from here on out for brevity), but we know what we need to because the story isn't about unraveling the mystery of what is this camp, we only need it as a setup. The Summer Camp has a cultish vibe, the students carry around crystal radios, wear white button down shirts with crosses that appear to be hastily drawn onto their pockets with a fabric pen. They also hear god on the radio, there's mentions of transformations and they go to a cabin to face the devil.

To those unfamiliar with the history of radio, the crystal radios sound even more mystical than they actually are in the game. Crystal radios were popular around 1900 as they required no external power to play the radio signals they could receive, they instead used the power of the radio signal itself for power. The crystal that Venus — who excels at working with the radio — references in the game, galena, is what was commonly used in these radios of the time. Crystal radios are simple, you need some wire, a capacitor, a crystal and some sort of earphone. They're a very interesting topic I highly recommend you look into further.

Brief diversion aside, even with prior knowledge of crystal radios, something is different about the crystal radios in WKTD. They are described with odd adjectives. Venus mentions their use in slicing things in the demo and each girl's radio has a different adjective associated with it. The Bonfire Captain — the only seen camp counselor — describes them as unique to each person and they connect to each of our three protagonists' personal issues.

The campers tune in to hear God on the radio and — if they are not careful — they can sometimes pick up signals from the devil. The Devil lives between the frequencies, while god is always found at 109.8. God sounds like every boy you are afraid of talking to at once. God doesn't check in to make sure you're caught up to what he's talking about. God expects you to show up on time and pay attention. God has rules.

The kids are split into groups of three and are then setup to isolate one of the three in most activities. The demo shows that this is common across most camp activities as only two of them can compete in a dodgeball game and only two in a talent show. The kids must be cruel to each other, especially when they go to the cabin. The Cabin is where kids are sent to face The Devil. The Devil lives in the woods and one of them will be tempted by and possessed by him. The Camp sends groups to The Cabin because they believe they all have something wrong with them and want that stamped out. They pit these kids against each other, they want them to isolate one of their number so that they fall to the devil and then be stopped by the other two. The kids must know that they are wrong.

The game centers around this as the mechanic. You the player/reader must pick which pairing will work together at each decision point, and outside of one the seven events, you only get to pick between two of these pairings. This not only saves time on writing and makes replaying for each path a bit quicker, but also forces you to see every combination of character. You can't just stick Jupiter and Neptune together every chance you get. But because there are 7 events, you can't balance them perfectly either. Someone is always left behind until you unlock the true ending.

There is nothing to fear where there is two against the devil. Two people can shame and drive back The Devil. Two people can report this fall to sin and push their third back on the right path. Each path ends with the character you featured the least turning to the devil as the other two use their radios to turn them back. The isolation has caused the remaining character to turn inward on their "bad" impulses and they know the devil. T

As the girls turn to the devil, they undergo a graphic transformations that reflect each character before they are driven back by the other two. One of them always has to be a bit worse than the others, one of them must be a scapegoat and the other two must be good and turn them back.

I mostly want to talk about Jupiter. I want to talk about her in a way that really goes through a lot of the details of her plotline, so if this game interest you, go ahead and play it yourself first. It's $6.66 normally and usually is in a bundle or steam sale for less.

Jupiter wants to be a good kid. She needs to be a good kid. She's supposed to be good. She can't not be good. She's smart, a good student, an athlete, and everyone else expects her to do well. She's not the kind of girl who gets sent to a camp like this. Even the jerks in Group South think she's cool. Jupiter always tries to put on a strong face. She acts like nothing bothers her, she tries to be friendly and tries to do the "good" thing without being sanctimonious about it. Jupiter makes occasional reference to her parents. Her mother is implied to be emotionally abusive. She may have been physically and/or sexually abused in the past as well. Jupiter has an extreme aversion to touching or being touched that can imply this.

Each girl in the game has a tic, her's is she snaps her hair tie on her wrist.

Jupiter has a crush on Neptune — she's a closeted lesbian who tries to lock these feelings away because it's not "good" to be gay. This is why she is at the camp. If you're not aware, snapping hair ties or rubber bands on your wrist is a form of aversion therapy often used by gay conversion camps. The idea is you snap the band on your wrist, causing you a non-serious amount of physical pain whenever you have gay thoughts. This causes you to begin to subconsciously associate your sexuality with pain to cause you to retreat from it. It's a cruel practice.

Jupiter really wants to be a good kid. Everyone expects her to be good, the pressure of the expectations of everyone else clearly weighs on her, particularly in her own route and the true ending. Her radio is described as heavy. I find the other character's "radio adjective" can be more directly related to how they communicate, but Jupiter's is a bit more general to the character I suppose. She feels the weight of the expectations of her parents, friends, and society. In Jupiter's ending, she, as she does through much of the game, immediately blames herself.

Jupiter says she liked it when she thought heaven was based on merit, where if you do good things, you can one day be good eonough to go to heaven. But she's gay. Her heart isn't "good" it's deviant. She can't be inherently good, she can only act it out. She can't go to heaven, God knows her heart has other desires. If it was about doing good things, she could make it. She doesn't have a shot at heaven now. She can act good, but she can't be good. She's inherently wrong and broken. Her mother taught her touching others is not polite, her dad told her as a girl she must protect herself from the touch of others, but she can't protect herself from her own touch. She asks what would happen if she stopped trying to stop herself from trying?

Throughout all the routes and especially the final route, Jupiter has trouble choosing her own happiness. She wants the devil to be real because she wants the devil to make her choose him. She needs it to not be her fault. She is too scared to make the call to be herself. She's afraid.

In the true ending, all the girls turn to the devil, be together and be themselves. Jupiter has the most trouble doing this though. She just can't let go and be herserlf, be "bad." She tells Neptune that she needs her to force her to join the other two with the devil becaus she's not strong enough to do it on her own. She begs them because it neerds to not be her fault. If she has to turn to the devil then it's okay.

She's scared, but she knows it's what she needs to do. She knows that if she takes that first step, she'll never be able to look back.