Love for Poacher

Due to the last few weeks of GRE study-mania, I have a bunch of incomplete posts written but nowhere near done.  So, a quick couple of thoughts on my current favorite distraction so I don’t fall out of the habit of blogging consistently.

I have a bad habit of finding wonderful distractions before the deadline of a project or test.  The week leading up to my GRE was no different.  Yahtzee Croshaw released his latest game Poacher & I nearly had to break my own fingers to stop myself from playing.  I’m not a professional game critic, like Mr. Croshaw, & I’ve only completed half the game so I don’t plan on offering a critique at the moment–just a bit of love for the game.

Giant Carnivore Bunnies. Nice.

The terms “poacher game review” will give you a dearth of summaries about the game (as well as the link to The Escapist above) so I’ll be brief in my recap.  Poacher is a 2D platform game that follows Derek Badger, a gruff Yorkshireman hunting at night on his local lord’s land.  When he falls down a hole after an accusatory gamekeeper, Badger meets a spirit girl & fantastical adventures in the underground world ensue.

The first thing I love about the game is the retro feel to the graphics & game design.  I’m often reminded of the shareware games I played on the family’s PC in the 80’s & 90’s.  (Crystal Caves & Commander Keen, I am so looking at you.)  Part go-here-seek-the-magic-thing adventure, part puzzle, the most frustrating & rewarding part of the gameplay is timing your actions to make sure you get through the level relatively unscathed.  When I play, my thoughts often run: Getting there, ok, good.  Ha!  HA!  Made i—nononoWHERE DID THAT COME FROM?!

Another fun aspect is that you’re pretty free to explore the underground world.  The skills you gain in one area dictate where you can go, but other than that there is never a specific path to follow.  You can literally bumble about with about as much knowledge to go as Derek Badger himself, which makes discovering each level more interesting.  The creepiness of the Crystal Tombs is effective because you, the player, have no idea where you’re going.

Finally, the conversations between Derek & his floaty lass Rebecca are funny & endearing & add some lightheartedness to the game.  Since I’ve mentioned before I’m a sucker for accents, I grin every time Derek’s Yorkshire dialect shows up on the screen.  Together, Rebecca & Derek are a compelling team & I can’t wait to see what happens to them later in the game.

Say again?

Now I don’t want to end this post with you, dear reader, thinking that I find the game to be perfect or that I’m blithely skipping over any critique.  I honestly think that the novelty of the game hasn’t totally worn off for me yet & I’m just enjoying whatever the game presents.  Poacher’s difficulty doesn’t bother me as much as other players because, oddly, figuring out how to defeat a boss or get through a tricky timed jump section reminds me of practicing my fiddle.  Typically, I’ll play a new piece repeatedly to get it down & suddenly the musical structure becomes perfectly clear.  Trying repeatedly to get through a difficult level of Poacher feels the same way–after a couple of obsessive tries, the right actions & timing seem effortless.  More than once I’ve stopped at a save point in Poacher & felt the urge to go practice some tangled piece of sheet music.

(That’s an awkward compliment.  Dear Mr. Croshaw, your game makes me want to do other challenging things.  Thanks, a Fan.)

With that said, I will end with a thank you to Yahtzee, because Poacher is a lot of fun, you can get it for free, & that a pretty sweet combination.  So, go download it already, huh?