Recently I’ve been watching a lot of Later Levels over on Twitch. I really enjoy hanging out with Kim and Pete, but I’ve been especially curious about their game-swaps. Those who frequent Kim’s blog will know that over the past several months she has been participating in game-swaps with members of the blogging community. I am the most recent person to take her up on a game-swap and wanted to capture some of my thoughts in writing after completing the games I was given to play.
First things first: what is a game-swap? The idea originated from how Kim from Later Levels and Luke from Hundstrasse wanted to buy some obscure PS2 games at a local event and swap them in person. Unfortunately, 2020 happened so the event never actually occurred and thus I do not believe games traded hands in person. However, some good came of this as the door was opened for digital game-swaps. Thus I, and so many others, were able to get in on the fun.
One other item of note is that most of the swaps had a theme of some kind to help influence the game chosen by both parties. For ours I inadvertently chose the theme. See, I got very excited when I realized I could use this as an opportunity to get Kim to play Va-11 Hall-A, which I figured she would enjoy based on my current understanding of her gaming tastes.
Unfortunately, this put Kim (and Pete) in the awkward spot of trying to recommend a game I might enjoy. I’m not sure how well it comes across in my writing, but I have very particular tastes when it comes to games. I play a lot of games that just sort of pass me by without leaving any sort of impression. Mir even has trouble shopping for me because she wants me to enjoy the gift, but I only do about half the time.
So with this dilemma what did Kim and Pete choose for me to play? An adventure game about exploring a corn maze filled with sentient corns. Also a point and click about a genetic abomination who has to fight a sloth that pukes candy bars. I promise, like so much of the garbage that comes out of my mouth, all of this makes sense in context.
Maize was the game I was actually meant to play for the game-swap, so it was the one I delved into first. It’s an adventure game set in first-person where you explore a corn maze, but had no field of view slider which meant I had an immediate problem: motion sickness. Thankfully I could play it in windowed mode using only half of my screen’s real-estate which helps to trick the part of my brain that causes the motion sickness into realizing I am, in-fact, playing a video game.
At the onset of my journey I had to get my brain in the right space to actually solve Maize’s puzzles. For the first twenty or so minutes I was running around the corn maze randomly smashing items together to brute force my way forward. Following that I finally had an epiphany and began solving all of Maize’s various conundrums with intentionality.
While I got stuck, briefly, a few times I breezed through the game and quite enjoyed my time with it. It’s a goofy game if the premise of running around a corn maze filled with sentient corn didn’t already clue you in. The game’s ability to wear its silliness like a badge of honour really helps to make some of the moments laugh out loud hilarious even if they’re entirely too stupid to be funny in any other context.
My only gripe with it was the overuse of the word idiot. Certain characters use the word so many times that it entirely loses meaning. I think for one character this was intended, but it still grated on me a bit. There are so many other inflammatory ways to demean someone’s intelligence including but not limited to: dumbass, shit-head, dullard, stupid, brain-dead, half-wit, thick, dumb, twit, moron, imbecile, dunce, ninny, simpleton, oaf, and boob. Some variety would have been nice.
Overall, I thought Maize was a fun way to spend an afternoon and would recommend checking it out. It’s not a super serious experience, but sometimes you just need something silly to laugh with for an afternoon after a rough week (or year).
Paradigm was a second game that Kim included because her and Pete couldn’t one hundred percent agree on what to give me for the game-swap. Think of its inclusion as a bonus game.
Paradigm is a point and click where you guide a disfigured genetic abomination around solving puzzles that are loosely motivated by story related goals. From what I understand it’s classic adventure game fair. I say this with a lack of certainty because I’ve only played something like three point and click games in my entire time on this planet and, while I know Kim is a big fan of them, I don’t know that I am.
Aside: I actually am sorry, instead of my normal very not-sorry attitude.
Credit where it’s due, the game’s humour was on point, for me at least. The dry wit and downright offensive way that various subjects were handled gave me a chuckle as I worked my way through the game. However, the value of the laughs was diminished by the entirely obtuse nature of the puzzles.
Where I was able to finish Maize in its entirety without a guide, I had to resort to using one for the back-half of Paradigm. The puzzles started fairly clear where I could piece together what objects I needed in-order to reach the desired outcome, but that soon faded and was replaced with some truly obscure nonsense. I’d have only been able to figure out some of the later puzzles by clicking all the things and smashing every item in my inventory together.
To illustrate my point I’m going to spoil one of the puzzles, so just skip the following three paragraphs, which are conveniently sandwiched between two images, if you want to play Paradigm without spoilerinos.
The task before me was to collect a package of seeds to grow a tree. In an earlier puzzle I had to interact with a vending machine which happened to sell tree seeds. Perfect. I know where to get the seeds. So I returned to the vending machine and saw the seeds cost a dollar. Okay, so I need to find a dollar and I know the nearby church has a donation bin. I’ll steal a coin, come back here, insert it into the machine, and get the seeds. It’s the perfect plan.
Unfortunately, when I arrived at the church the donations were being guarded by a nun who wouldn’t let me take any. Suddenly my clear path forward was very murky and I was stumped. Turns out, to acquire money from the bin you need to go to a nearby lobby where you can steal a giant bobble-head, then return to the church and use the bobble-head on a confessional station. This will prompt the player to step inside and come out wearing the bobble-head as a disguise. Afterward, you need to use whiskey scented perfume found within the church, which will finally allow you to talk to the nun who now insists you take a coin.
What the fuck? How in shit’s creation was I meant to figure that out without randomly smashing shit together for an hour? Looking at the puzzle in hindsight it appears the line of thinking was to assemble a disguise before stealing the money (kind of), but the steps to get there cross into the realm of obscure nonsense.
It was a similar story for a lot of the later puzzles in Paradigm. I could work out parts of the puzzle, but too much of the chain of dependencies was obfuscated behind seemingly random actions and interactions. I simply didn’t have the patience to try ever feasible combination while clicking every item on the screen.
That same lack of patience also triggered the caveman part of my brain that shuts off everything when I get frustrated. This had the knock on effect of diminishing any of the humour that was present in the back-half of the game. It’s kind of hard to have a laugh when you’re too busy cussing out puzzles under your breath like some sort of deranged puzzle troll.
So with that, Paradigm wasn’t my favourite, nor are point and clicks in general. I don’t think I have the patience to play through games where I can’t solve most everything with a degree of intentionality and I can’t see myself ever having the been able to work out some of the nonsense I saw on display here.
In closing, one of two isn’t bad, especially with how picky I can be. And I wouldn’t even say I hated Paradigm, rather I really didn’t care for the puzzles in the back half of the game. Both Maize and Paradigm gave me some laughs, though Maize was definitely the more positive experience.
Thank you to both Kim and Pete for exposing me to these games. While it wasn’t a totally positive experience I still enjoyed it. Even if the opposite may seem to be the case based on my crotchety way of writing about things.