There's an animated sword spin here. Not just a red flash or a "TWHACK!" textbox. That doesn't happen by not caring
In my last review I wrote:
And it sounds crass, but no pics = no clicks! Even slimy screenshots are better than nothing.
And I'm a total hypocrite because I wasn't looking forward to this game because of its screenshots. I feel like I've already played a dozen shape quest kind of games (and that's not even counting the Mr. Triangle series) and I'm tired of 'em. It's usually an excuse for lazy art, wrapped around a lazy story with some lazy battles thrown in.
Even worse, one of the screenshots had a joke about RPGs thrown in. "Self aware" RPGs almost always fall flat for me. They never seem to have anything new to say, and just point at random aspects of the genre and expect us to laugh. Armed with my foreknowledge, I was ready to tear this game a new one.
Only I'm a jackass, because Grapnes 2 is a pretty good game and the screenshots don't do justice to the work put in. There's actually a very nice sense of humor here and it's in perfect balance with a more serious story-telling attempt.
Fair warning: I didn't play very much of the game. I'm not sure I've ever reviewed a game I've played this little of, especially a game that I liked. There's a chance it might turn into crap two minutes after I gave up and then I'll look like a double jackass. Willing to take that chance because there's enough right in these first 15 or so minutes to learn from.
[Have you ever noticed that my reviews are a lot about me and a lot less about the game I'm playing? I'm kind of a jerk that way.]
Grapnes 2: Kepnalcide starts pretty much the same way A Link To The Past does. A dark and stormy night, trouble's brewing, and your father figure wakes you up to tell you to stay in bed (Why not just let you sleep? This never makes sense.) Of course, you don't, and of course things turn out pretty bad for dad. It's a testament to Taco Bot that it doesn't feel like a rip-off. It's also a testament that this is the first part of the game that made me laugh: Four bad guys surround a random blue guy who spins around in a circle looking for a way out. It's really stupid, but his expression and the speed with which he turns is perfect.
One textbox and twenty years later, you're busting out of a prison camp. Now we're in a revenge kind of story, like Batman or Conan. You get on a ship and escape from the Kepnals, and navigate to safety through the opening credits. Having opening credits is a great move. Being able to save anywhere is a great move. Having a custom menu is a great move. There's tons of great moves right off the bat.
The best one is the first place you stop (though interestingly it doesn't have an arrow pointing to it like the other place you could visit). A pirate lays down the law of how combat is going to work. Early game tutorials usually piss me off, but Grapnes gets it out of the way so neat and clean that I actually appreciate it showing me that there's more to the game than just holding down the space bar. Combat revolves around a color wheel: Colors on the opposite side of the wheel do double damage to each other, objects right next to each other only do half. I took a screenshot of this, figuring I'd need it for constant reference, but the options in the spell menu are laid out in the same wheel! No need for flash cards, right on Grapnes!
My only complaint is that the pirate gives you "ammo" for each type, which makes me feel like later on down the line you're going to have to grind for it. On the other hand, there's an instant means of judging how tough a battle is going to be. I'm blue, so by the game's logic, orange is my opposite. His attacks will be super effective against me (and mine against him). Our battles will be brutal. On the other hand, green and purple (my neighboring color) enemies will be at a disadvantage because I can choose to use other colored attacks and presumably they cannot.
Having completed the tutorial, the pirate gives you a fake passport and you're off to the game at large. I didn't make it very far after this: Bandits in the town to the south wore down my health. I went back and bought equipment and they still kicked my ass. Went north to the forest and found that log from the gamelist screenshots, levelled a bit against the monsters up there but got killed by fast purple squids trying to leave the forest to get back to town. I had an herb I could've used, so it was my fault. I just wasn't expecting as serious a grind as I was in for.
I might be missing an optional hero or something. Or maybe I'm meant to grind enough money for a full set of equipment and about 10 or 15 potions before taking on the bandits. Potions were healing 25 of my 42 hp and the three bad guys were doing about 6 damage each a turn, making my net healing about 7 HP per round.
At any rate, I'd seen enough. There was a serious game here and I wasn't quite in the mood for it. It's definitely on the list of things to revist when I'm in better spirits. I've already mentioned a lot of little things that I think make this game good, but the biggest thing is the music. It sets the scenes perfectly. Fantastic work on that, and doubly fantastic work to put the right pieces in the right places. Absolutely check it out, just be ready to do some levelling in the woods and some running from some squids.