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Day 18: Winterdown (Nefarious)

Nefarious is a classic tale of good vs. evil. Good guys are here to save the day, and bad guys capture princesses who need rescuing. Except there's one twist... you're the bad guy. Let's be frank, being the villain is way more fun than being the hero anyway. A rookie supervillain named Crow is on his way to conquer the world, and plans to abduct all the princesses of the many kingdoms to fuel his royalty-powered death ray.


One of these kingdoms is the icy land of Winterdown, which has kind of a Russian aesthetic. It's the home of the dwarves and the warrior princess Ariella. As soon as you arrive you're treated to the Winterdown National Anthem. The lyrics sound like gibberish, but they're actually the princess's full name: Alisa Aglaya Anushka Ariella Alena Angelina Avdota Alexandra.


As he approaches the royal palace, Crow is met by a few guards. Some have cannons, others have throwing axes, but none of them is all that big a threat on their own. Getting inside isn't much of a problem.


Once there, Crow encounters rival villain Dr. Mechano. This is awkward... After a short midboss battle, he flees, and Crow is free to capture the princess. Well, except...


In Soviet Winterdown, princess captures you! Ariella decided to ride Crow through these ice caves, and there's not a whole lot he can do about it. While Ariella is on his back, Crow runs forward automatically, and you can attack stuff with her throwing axes. It's kinda frantic.


Once she gets bored of dragging you around, you're sent to the boss battle. Boss fights in this game are kind of an inverse from the usual tradition. Crow controls the giant robot seen here, and has to use its fists to stomp on the hero Guryon the Righteous. He's most vulnerable when he throws his weapon to attack you, though you do have to dodge out of the way first.

After defeating him, Ariella decides that being kidnapped is more interesting than hanging around her kingdom, so she goes along with Crow. It's debatable whether or not that counts as a victory for him, but at the very least it's one step closer to taking over the world.


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Day 19: Alpine Trust (Fast RMX)

Fast RMX is a futuristic hovercar racing game for the Switch. There are a few things I appreciate about it: One, it's an F-Zero clone when there hasn't been an actual F-Zero since the Gamecube. Two, it's straightforward enough to have "Fast" right in the title. It's apparently part of a series, but this is the only one I've played.


Alpine Trust is the premier snowy track here. It's got some ice on the track that will make you slip, despite you being in an anti-gravity vehicle. The heavy snowfall obscures visibility too. As pictured above, there are some icicles in your path, but you can break straight through them with a boost.


Unlike the random items of Mario Kart, the only things you'll find on the track for you are boost orbs. You can use your boost as will and generally want to boost as much as possible without crashing into stuff.  Boost and jump pads are color-coded and you need to shift your engine's color to match, or else they slow you down.


Antarctica is just what it sounds like. This course has better visibility than Alpine Trust, plus a whole lot of jumps to send you flying. If you land on the track you're fine, but if you touch the ice you instantly crash. Thankfully, unlike F-Zero a wipeout won't end your race, but it does set you back quite a few seconds.


Avalanche Valley sounds like it's called that for the snow, but it's actually known for the other kind of avalanches too. Occasionally you'll have to dodge rockslides coming at you. Like the icicles in Alpine Trust, you can break through them with a boost.


Finally, there's Ice Coast. It's an icy version of Storm Coast, fittingly. The track is the same as Storm Coast, but you also have to deal with all the ice-related obstacles that Alpine Trust has.

Unfortunately, I'm honestly not very good at this game, and my runs through all four of these courses were filled with lots of eating the wall, getting blown up, and finishing in low places. At least it was good practice?


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Day 20: The Tazal Terminals (Bastion)

"Everything, gone. You gotta hand it to the Calamity. It did the job quick. But it missed a few spots..." So begins Supergiant Games' first game, Bastion. It's a top-down action adventure that's all about discovering the secrets of the Calamity that shattered the world, and repairing the Bastion that might be able to save everything.


The Tazal Terminals are the very last area of the game. Once the underground home of the Ura people, the Calamity sent it flying skyward. One of the kid's allies, an Ura named Zulf, betrayed him and stole the last Shard needed to activate the Bastion, hiding it somewhere in here.


Many Ura warriors stand in the kid's path. Some have swords, others have crossbows or guns, and all can do a quick dash move that makes them difficult to hit. They're far from undefeatable, though.


While all this is going on, Rucks the narrator explains that the Bastion's true function is to reverse time. Once activated, it can restore the world to before the Calamity hit, though there's no guarantee that it won't stop the Calamity from happening again. It does have an alternate function, however...


Later on you get your hands on a massive battering ram. It deals incredible amounts of damage but is rather slow. You can use it to fight off even more Ura guards and then claim the last Shard. After you do so, you find Zulf being attacked by his people.


You have the choice to either take him with you, or leave him to his fate. Unlike most plot-relevant choices, there's not really a "right" or "wrong" here, and it depends on whether you can forgive him for what he's done. I decided to take him with. Once you return to the Bastion, you have another choice: Undo the Calamity, or activate the emergency evacuation protocol, keeping the world as it is but allowing it to travel freely. It's implied that if you take the first choice, the whole story happens over again, leading to the New Game+ option, so I decided to activate the evacuation instead.


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Day 21: Battle of Hoth (Star Wars: Rogue Leader)

I saw The Last Jedi today! However, that’s not what I’m here to talk about as A) I wouldn’t want to spoil it and B) there aren’t any games based on it yet anyway. Instead, let’s go back and look at an older Star Wars game. Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II is the sequel to Rogue Squadron on the Nintendo 64, and is a flight-based game themed around Luke Skywalker’s fighter squad, Rogue Squadron.


Look, you know where this is. Even if you haven’t seen The Empire Strikes Back, the battle of Hoth is one of the most iconic events in the series. The rebel base on the ice world Hoth is besieged by the Imperials, and Rogue Squadron takes to the air in snowspeeders to buy the rebels enough time to escape. The snowspeeder is a hovercraft rather than a true flight craft, so it doesn’t get good altitude. On the other hand, you never have to worry about it crashing into the ground. The first objective is to destroy the AT-ST “chicken walkers” attacking the base. These things are pretty frail and it only takes a few laser shots to take them out.


The AT-ATs have heavier armor and can’t be hurt by your blasters. Instead you need to defeat them the same way as in the movie: By hooking onto them with your harpooned tow cables and wrapping the cable around their legs, causing them to fall to the ground. I think it makes a good metaphor for the Rebellion vs. Empire conflict as a whole, really. Flying circles around an AT-AT without crashing into it is trickier than it seems. When Luke’s speeder is shot down (again, just like in the movie), control switches to Wedge, and you play as him for the rest of the campaign.


When the Imperials blow up Echo Base’s shield generator, the rebels need to make their retreat. Rogue Squadron switches to X-Wing fighters, and your last objective is to take out all the TIE Fighters and Bombers attacking the rebel transport ships. The fighters are frail but elusive, but the bombers are easy to track since they just hover over the transports and drop bombs on them. Once they’re destroyed, the rebellion is saved.


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Day 22: Shiveria (Super Mario Odyssey)

Super Mario Odyssey is a Mario game that's like every other Mario game except for the part where it's not. It's similar to the 3D collect-a-thon Marios like Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, except in this one Mario's collecting moons instead of stars. And it has a lot of things relating to hats. Mario gets a hat-shaped airship to travel with and a sentient hat companion named Cappy. I actually just got this for my birthday, so I haven't finished it yet.


Mario and Cappy both look pretty cold when they visit the snow kingdom of Shiveria. The first time you arrive, there's a raging snowstorm and you can hardly see anything. There's a big patch of deep snow in the ground, and digging it up opens a tunnel.


That drops you into Shiveria Town, where you can get a warm welcome from the locals. They're unhappy because Bowser has stolen their famous Frost-Frosted Cake for his wedding with Peach, and he closed off the local racetrack too. You can't get the cake back, but you can open Bowser's four barriers by collecting certain moons scattered around the area.


Also new to this installment is the ability for Mario to take control of certain characters by throwing his hat onto them. This is a bit unsettling. Possessing a Goomba might seem useless, but they actually have much better traction on these slippery ice floors than Mario does.


In other places, you can possess these clouds to blow stuff around with gusts of wind. This can be used to clear enemies out of the way or make some wooden blocks slide on the ice.


Yellow coins are accepted all around the world, while purple coins are individual for each kingdom. This one's coins are snowflake-shaped. After picking up a few, I decided to buy Mario a nice winter coat to help him deal with the cold. It doesn't really have any effect on gameplay, but he's not shivering in his idle animation anymore.


In some places Mario gets flattened onto the wall for some classic 2D action. This is reminiscent of Link's wall-walking ability in A Link Between Worlds, plus a bit of 8-bit flavor.


You can also find these ice pillars that pop out of the ground and chomp on you. You can use them to give you a lift, but you'd better avoid those teeth. Once the racetrack is opened back up, the town gets a much lighter mood. Unfortunately, the races are only open to natives.


Not that that can stop Mario, of course. By possessing an unwilling participant, Mario can join the races and bounce his way to victory. The key to winning this course is timing your bounces properly and being sure not to fall off the track. The grand prize winner gets a triple-moon, and Mario can use that to power the airship and open up even more kingdoms to explore.


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Day 23: Solstheim (The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind)

Morrowind is the third game of the Elder Scrolls series of open-ended RPGs. This one takes place in the province of Morrowind, home of the Dark Elves and one of the easternmost provinces of Tamriel. Most of Morrowind is pretty temperate, but the Bloodmoon expansion added the island of Solstheim which has a rather cold climate.


This game has a story, but I've never been able to bother with it. Instead I just ran over here and took the boat to Solstheim on a fresh level 1 character. As such, I'm way underleveled for this area and my mission today was really just to check out the cool scenery.


And there's a lot. The character models haven't aged particularly well, but the landscape looks pretty nice. This isle is quite hostile and inhabited mainly by wolves, plague bears, and Nord berserkers who will all attack you on sight. I could handle the non-plagued wolves well enough, but running into anything else was basically a guaranteed death.


And I died a lot getting these screens. Saving often is important, kids. Morrowind's difficulty is a bit harsher than Skyrim's, even if the gameplay is pretty similar. Occasionally you can see snow falling, which is very pretty.


Supposedly it's possible to contract lycanthropy on this island, but I never figured out where, and I'm certain that if I actually met any werewolves I'd be dead again. When all you have is a weak snowball spell to protect you, the wilderness is not a friend.


The island's area is pretty small compared to the rest of Morrowind, but there's still lots to explore.


Eventually I found this cabin which had a few Nords who told me to go away. I complied, and then died again. I decided that was enough for today.


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Day 24: Sherbet Desert (Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle)

Mario + Rabbids... the title kind of speaks for itself. When the chaotic Rabbids invade the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario and his pals team up to restore the world to order in this tactical RPG. There are also a few Rabbid allies that come along for the ride. Okay, so this is technically the third Mario game I've showcased this month, but this is different enough from Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart to merit its own entry.


Our team is ready for battle! Mario is always on the squad, and you have to have at least one Rabbid. I decided to bring along Mario, Peach, and Rabbid Mario for this run.


This place is sort of a haphazard mix of a sandy desert and an icy wasteland. Rabbids are probably involved in creating this chaos. Opposing our heroes are still more Rabbids. There are a lot of different varieties: The basic Ziggies and Hoppers, the backup Supporters, and the frontline Bucklers and Smashers. Outflanking the enemy is the key to victory, and using cover is important too.


Peach and Rabbid Mario both get the Boomshot weapon type, which hits an area and deals more damage at close range. Thus, I wanted to get up close and personal. This is also the handy to avoid the Bucklers' ice shields. In this battle the Bucklers are backed up by Supporters, who can heal and throw grenades. They're really annoying, but not hard to deal with directly.


The area boss is the Icicle Golem, a massive Rabbid made of snow and ice. It pops out of a freezer when you arrive, and in its first phase can block frontal attacks by using the freezer door as a shield. Flanking it is the key to defeating it, and thankfully it's pretty slow.


After breaking its shield down, it'll call in some Smashers for support and attack with shots that deal area damage and freezing. Being frozen only prevents you from using specials, so it's not a huge issue, and a concentrated attack can easily bring it down. Once the little Rabbid head is dislodged from the main body, Peach does the honor of finishing it off by punting it into the distance. Mission complete, but there are still more worlds to fix.


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Day 25: Ice Age (Heroes of Might and Magic IV)

Heroes of Might and Magic is a fantasy-based turn based strategy franchise that I'm particularly fond of. Heroes IV is kind of the oddball in the series; it adds some new ideas (like heroes directly participating in combat rather than standing on the sidelines) that a lot of later entries dropped, and generally isn't viewed that well by the fanbase due to that and a few other reasons. Not that that's gonna stop me from enjoying it, though.


The Ice Age has come, and only those who can flee to the underground will be spared. This is a 4-player skirmish map covered in ice and snow. Everyone starts in one of the corners of the map. Snow terrain is difficult to move through compared to most other types, causing your armies to suffer a penalty to how much distance they can cover in a day. Your first two heroes each get a pair of snowshoes that can negate this.


Unlike most other entries, this applies in combat too. Melee units suffer from less movement per turn, which gives a major advantage to ranged and flying units. I exploited this as much as I could, naturally. My army is specialized in ranged and magic users.


Much like in a game of chess, the key to winning this map is controlling the center. There are four more towns in the central region plus a lot of resource mines and things to capture. In addition to those there's a subterranean area with a few heavily guarded towns and even more mines.


Snow is the native terrain type of the Academy faction. Native creatures have a reduced movement penalty, which is quite helpful in a map like this. The Academy is themed around order, wizardry, and knowledge. The factions in this installment use an alignment system loosely based on Magic: the Gathering's "color pie", and Academy matches up to Blue pretty well.


My opponents were a second Academy, plus an Asylum and Preserve (Red and Green respectively). I ended up suffering a lot of heavy losses (it turns out making your army all squishy ranged attackers isn't that great when the melees actually reach you), but with the power of the mighty Titans at my side, few opponents could challenge me and live.

This game also has a really good soundtrack. Have a listen to the harrowing Snow theme, plus the Academy town.


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Day 26: Mei's Snowball Offensive (Overwatch)

Overwatch is Blizzard's multiplayer FPS that's basically Team Fortress 2, but with a more interesting cast of characters. It could also be considered a version of the MOBA gameplay style transplanted into a first person shooter setting. There's a yearly winter holiday event going on in-game, which I'm sorry I missed the chance to talk about last year, so this year I'm making up for it.


In addition to winter-themed items appearing in loot boxes, there are a few winter-themed game modes. Mei's Snowball Offensive is one that showed up last year. The rules are pretty simple: 6 vs. 6, all Meis. Instead of her usual endothermic blaster you get a snowball gun that one-hit-kills opposing Meis.


It only has room for one snowball, so you better not miss. To reload you need to find some snow to pack into a new snowball. This takes about a second and leaves you vulnerable. Mei can still use her ice wall and ice block abilities to offer you some insurance. Like in the duel matches in Ecopoint: Antarctica, everyone only has one life.


Last year, the only stage was Antarctica, but for this one the Black Forest stage was added. This adds a little more variety to the matches. Instead of Mei's usual ultimate, she gains the Flurry ultimate, which gives her unlimited snowballs for a few seconds.


My snowball fighting skill might not be the best, but I still managed to pull through.


There's also a second new mode for this year's event, Yeti Hunter. This one is a team of 5 Meis vs. 1 Winston. The Meis are the hunters and the Winston is the yeti, naturally.


Mei keeps all her standard weapons for this one, save for her ultimate which is replaced with a yeti trap. The Winston has several thousand HP and can consume meat scattered around the map to power up.


He can easily take down the Meis one on one, but if he's surrounded they can bring him down together. The yeti wins if he kills enough hunters, while the hunters win if the yeti dies. This match ended in victory for the Meis, thankfully.


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Day 27: Holiday Levels (Clustertruck)

Clustertruck is a game about jumping on trucks. If that sounds kind of stupid, well, it is. But it actually makes for an interesting first-person platformer. There are trucks rolling around and you need to get to the goal without touching anything that's not a truck. The AI drivers aren't too good though, so things can be kind of a mess.


This is a 5-level pack added for a winter holiday update. There's an ice world in the main campaign too, but I haven't reached it yet. The trucks are your platforms, and touching the ground is death. In some cases you can just stay on top of one truck as it drives toward the goal, but it's more fun and more rewarding to jump between them.


This snowy landscape is fraught with plenty of obstacles including avalanches and giant snowballs. These are more dangerous to the trucks than to you, but the fewer trucks there are around, the harder the platforming gets.


You can grab points for bonus stunts like jumping on trucks that fly through midair, or getting a whole lot of air time. Needless to say, it's not easy to do this and land safely.


Death comes easily, but the levels are pretty short, and persistence pays off.


I eventually made it up to this level with ribbon conveyors and trucks that don't move, but I wasn't able to beat it. Ah well, sometimes that's just the way the truck falls.


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Day 28: Old Ferrum Town (Pokkén Tournament DX)

Pokkén Tournament 8.8 The Final Chapter Turbo HD ReMix is the premier Pokémon fighting game for all you people who like Pokémon and beating stuff up. Like with Mario Kart 8 DX, this was originally released on the Wii U, then got a port for the Switch, featuring some new fighters and other features.


One such feature is the addition of 3 vs. 3 team battles, where each successive round features a new team member. Weavile is still the only Ice type in the roster, so for my other two I picked Suicune and Empoleon, a pair of Water types that are essentially honorary Ice types anyway.


In the summer, Old Ferrum Town is known as the "city of water". In the winter it's blanketed in snow and ice as far as the eye can see. The circle the fighters stand in is cleared of snow, and you can find a lot of Ice type background Pokémon, plus a huge Mega Swampert snow sculpture watching over the battle.


The environment doesn't really have any bearing on the battle, unfortunately. The stage is oval shaped and you can occasionally pick up synergy stones that improve your synergy gauge. When it's full, you can unleash Synergy Burst mode to get a Mega Evolution (if able) and an all-around power boost.


Some of the fighters' moves are based directly on attacks from the main Pokémon games (like Weavile using Ice Punch here), while others are just generic attacks. As the battle rages on, it shifts from the Field Phase (with 3D movement) to the Duel Phase (with 2D movement and more attack opportunities) and back. Controlling the phase shifts is key to winning the battle.


You can call in support Pokémon to assist you as well. The only Ice type support mon is Lapras, who doesn't even use an Ice attack. Instead it uses Surf to wash opponents away. This can be pretty helpful as you can use it to attack from a long distance, or block an incoming enemy.


This match came down to the wire with a pair of synergy bursted mons facing each other down, but eventually I managed to prevail and achieve victory.


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Day 29: Bergen Trail (CrossCode)

CrossCode is a 16-bit-esque action/RPG with a sci-fi story. It takes place in CrossWorlds, a MMORPG that exists within the real world where player avatars are created from a type of instant matter. One such avatar, a girl named Lea, has lost her memory and seeks out the story of CrossWorlds to find her purpose.


One of the areas Lea passes through is Bergen Trail, which heads up the slopes of an icy mountain. It starts off as forest, but turns snowy pretty quickly.


Much like the actual MMORPG I mentioned earlier, this area has killer snow bunnies! I'm actually pretty underleveled for this, but I'm not gonna let something like that stop me. This game's combat system is based around precision guarding and dodging, so it's not impossible to handle. However, I still ended up dying a lot.


Lea decided to bring around a companion named Emilie, who helped out with the fighting. I also ran into some killer snowmen that were far too powerful for me to deal with.


After getting through the trail, Lea and Emilie arrived at Bergen Village. This settlement is most notable for holding the entrance to the Temple Mine, a place that avatars must visit while on their journey.


The mine is a solo dungeon filled with puzzles and that I was also far too underleveled for. I decided that once I got inside, it was a good stopping point.


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Day 30: Harpstone (BallisticNG)

BallisticNG is a freeware antigravity racing game made based on the Wipeout games. I'm unfamiliar with that series, but I can safely say that this game brings a lot of high-speed racing action wrapped up in a package of PS1-style graphics. In the year 2159, the sport of racing lives on.


Harpstone is a course set in Greenland, so you know it's going to be cold. The track has an ice blue sheen and you race as snow falls down all around you. This is one of the earlier tracks in the game, so it has nothing too fancy, just a few steep turns, a tunnel, and a jump ramp.


Much like in F-Zero, you can consume shield energy to give yourself a boost. It's handy to catapult yourself into first place, but there's only one shield recharge station on the track, so you have to use it sparingly. In addition  to that, there are also a lot of speed boosters on the track, plus Mario Kart style weapon pickups you can use to eliminate the competition. (Purists need not worry; there's also a mode that disables them.)


Getting away from the crowd is a good idea, since their weapons can mess you up. By being careful with the boost and pushing myself forward, I ended up breaking ahead of the pack and zooming to victory.


Each course has a myriad of alternate modes too, including time trials, mirror mode, no weapons, and survival. The more of these you play through, the more medals you earn to unlock the next stages.


Survival mode in particular is very interesting. This places you on a virtual version of the track. You start at the lowest speed class, and gradually accelerate as you go on. The goal is to make it as far as you can before dying. It seems easy at first, but once your top speed goes higher and higher you start to panic until you inevitably crash into the wall and die.


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Day 31: White Wafers (Kirby's Return to Dream Land)

Did you really think I’d be able to get through the month without posting a Kirby level? Nonsense. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land basically started the modern resurgence of the Kirby series, with classic 2D action, abilities with distinct movesets, and making everything bigger. Kirby and pals help out a friendly alien named Magolor by collecting parts of his crashed ship, the Lor Starcutter.


White Wafers is the fourth world and one that’s full of ice and snow. It’s got slippery floors, pretty snowscapes, ice caves, and later on, a crystal palace. It’s also one of the longer worlds in the game, being the first with 5 stages.


Heat based abilities like Fire or Fighter can be used to clear out ice blocks in your path, while you can occasionally find some fire blocks that can be cooled down with Ice or Water.


Apart from that, you can also find cannons that shoot you around, plus some that fire giant ice blocks at you. These are annoying, but their shots are pretty slow so they’re not a huge threat.


About midway through you can pick up the Super Ability version of Ice, Snow Bowl. It turns Kirby into a huge snowball that can plow through anything in his way. In addition you can also find the Grand Hammer super ability, which lets you slam the ground with a huge hammer to pound down stakes and make huge shockwaves.


The end boss of the area is Goriath, an ape-like thing that clings to the walls and throws snowballs, plus can punch you with stretchy arms. When it reaches about half health, it’ll turn Super Saiyan and power up, then attack by bouncing off the walls and throwing ki blasts. Once it’s knocked out, Kirby can pick up the Lor’s emblem and return it.

Also, music! Check out Snowball Scuffle, one of the stage themes for this world.


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It begins again!

Day 1: Echo's Edge (Kirby Star Allies)

I thought that since I ended last year with a Kirby game, I'd start this one off with another. Kirby Star Allies is the newest entry in the Kirby series, and involves Kirby and friends chasing mysterious dark hearts all across their world. And there are a lot of friends: Every copy ability can be turned into an ally, plus there are Dream Friends returning from previous games.


Echo's Edge is the third stage of Planet Popstar, the world of miracles. It's an icy field with lots of pretty scenery and cold winds that push you around. These can both help and hinder your team, depending on which way they're blowing.


Much like in Return to Dream Land, there are ice blocks that can be destroyed with a fire ability to uncover hidden secrets. This is easier to deal with than in past games, as now you can use allies to add fire to a weapon. Here, I've enlisted the help of Burning Leo to grant Kirby a blazing hammer. It boosts damage too, so there's no reason not to make use of this.


Later in the game, you head out into space, and one of the worlds you visit is the icy Planet Frostak. It actually feels pretty different from the prior ice level, with a more calm and soothing atmosphere. Here the main threat is pits of icy spikes and unstable floors above them.


Rather than using more of the ice blocks, a lot of the secrets in this level are blocked by fire chains that need to be taken out using an ability that has both cold and cutting properties. In this case I used Chilly the snowman to add some ice to Kirby's cutter ability. After beating the main level, you can head to Blizzno Moon to confront the boss.


Francisca is one of the Three Mage-Sisters, and she seeks the dark hearts for her own purposes. She also fits the Mezzo Aesthetic pretty much perfectly. This is actually the second boss fight against her; the first was in the Jambastion, the fortress of shadows.


Her axe delivers some chilling blows, and she can also freeze over the floor, capture you in a giant snowflake, and blast you with a water gun. The last move has a weakness: If you fire an electric ability into the stream, it backfires on her and stuns her. Knowing that makes her a bit easier to take down. Once you do, it's on to the next stage. As of the latest update, it's actually possible to recruit her and her sisters as Dream Friends, but you have to go through a whole lot of effort to unlock it.

And I can't talk about Kirby without mentioning some cool music. Echo's Edge and Planet Frostak both have very soothing lullaby-like music. The music for the Francisca fight is the somber Song of Supplication, or Prayer Song to God in the Japanese soundtrack.


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Day 2: Liebea's Stage (Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel)

Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel (boy, that's a mouthful) is the sequel to Rosenkreuzstilette, the Mega Man clone with magical girls. If you remember last year, one of the bosses in the original RKS was the ice mage Freudia Neuwahl. This time she takes over as protagonist after Spiritia is captured by the Schwarzkreuz organization. Unlike Tia, she can't copy magic directly, so instead she makes approximations with her ice powers. So essentially, this is a Mega Man clone where all the weapons are ice-themed. It's not that often you see a game protagonist who solely uses ice attacks, and considering the general theme of the game, where would it be without an ice level?


Liebea Palesch is Rosenkreuz member #008, and she's a weather mage. In the original RKS, she used her Liebessturm magic to summon rain that hit the whole screen. Here, she tends more toward snow magic.


The stage's title of "The White Wasteland" definitely sets the theme. It gets some chill music too. Thankfully, the cold never bothered Freudia anyway.


The main obstacle here is deep snow that you'll sink into if you don't keep jumping. It's not that hard to deal with, but it can slow you down or even kill you if you sink too far. There are also giant snowballs you can roll around and use as platforms.


The falling snow will occasionally obscure your vision too. Like with the prior obstacle, this just requires you to be patient. This stage is pretty easy by Mega Man standards, but you don't want to slip up and accidentally fall into a spike pit. And thankfully, there aren't any Quick Man lasers around.


There's also a secret hidden here. If you sink into one of the deep snow pits, you can uncover a hidden route leading to a special orb. Claiming it allows Freudia's fairy companion Strudel to join in the fight. She'll attack any enemies in sight, but deals no damage to bosses.


With a little practice you can reach Liebea. Except... looks like this Liebea is a fake. It's not clear who made her or why, but clearly this clone has to be dispatched.


Her weakness is the Frostklinge ("Frost Blade"), obtained from Doris' stage. It's a powerful and versatile weapon, but you have to aim carefully, as you can only have 3 blades onscreen at a time and they take a while to despawn. Meanwhile she'll be hitting you with snowballs, wind storms, and her own ice blades. It takes a bit of practice, but if you learn her pattern and land your shots she can be taken down.


Your reward for doing so is the Freudenzwinger ("The Prison of Joy"). It allows Freudia to appear in multiple places at once and blast everything on the screen with icicles from all angles. It's also a move that Freudia used in her boss fight from the original RKS, which is pretty neat.


Re: Mezzo's Obligatory Ice Level Month

Day 3: Tundra Man's Stage (Mega Man 11)

Yes, the Mega Man games go up to 11. Mega Man 11 is the glorious return of the Blue Bomber after he was thought gone for years. It's got 8 themed Robot Masters and weaknesses as before, plus the new Double Gear system that adds additional speed and power. Oh, and the voice acting is better than Mega Man 8.


Among the new Robot Masters in this installment is Tundra Man. Originally designed for arctic exploration, he found his passion as an ice skater instead. I don't know if his stage is officially recommended as the first, but I completed it first in my run anyway.


His stage appears to be a cold city museum, with many fossils and fancy architecture around. Snow falls from above in the outdoor sections, and some robot snowflakes will fall too. They don't really do anything, but they hurt if you crash into them, and you can blow them up with the Mega Buster.


There are also killer snow bunnies! They jump around and are quite a bit more annoying than the snowflakes. This stage has high winds that will blow you around and mess with your jumps, and the snowflakes are blown around by the wind too. The time slow offered by the new Speed Gear mechanic can help a bit, but not that much.


Halfway through the stage you meet this robo-mammoth midboss. It drops icicles from the ceiling and then summons wind to push you off them. It's actually a decoy, however; the target you need to destroy is the platform carrying it. Boosting your shots with the Power Gear helps to deal damage and shoot it right between the eyes.


"And now, start the music! I'm like a rose, frozen in ice!"

Tundra Man is the most fabulous Robot Master and he always keeps the spotlight on him. His weakness isn't a fire weapon; it's the Scramble Thunder, from Fuse Man's stage. However, as mentioned previously, I'm going for him first, so it's just the Mega Buster today.


He skates to and fro, shouting "ELEGANCE!" while shielding himself with his Tundra Storm. His pattern's pretty easy to spot, and he's vulnerable when he reaches the edge of the field. That's a good time for some Power Gear boosted charge shots, which will quickly drain his health. At half health, he'll activate his own Speed Gear for a triple rush followed by an ice storm that hits the center of the room. This is pretty tough to dodge, but if you can manage, he'll go down.


His weapon is the Tundra Storm, a whirling cyclone of snow. If you use it with Power Gear active, it expands to hit the whole screen. It's pretty ammo intensive, but this is a great tool for clearing out large groups or hard to reach enemies, and it can put out Torch Man's fire with no trouble.

Oh, and here's the stage music. Can't forget that, can we?


Re: Mezzo's Obligatory Ice Level Month

Day 4: The Arctic Cruise (A Hat in Time)

So I know I did A Hat in Time last year, but we're going back to this cute as heck platform adventure thanks to the magic of DLC. The Seal the Deal pack includes a new chapter, the Arctic Cruise. And what better way is there to relax after picking up all those Time Pieces than by taking a luxury cruise liner?


Hop aboard the S.S. Literally Can't Sink and take a ride. Lots of other characters from earlier in the game arrive as passengers, including the mafia from Mafia Town and the birds from Dead Bird Studio.


The ship is staffed by a bunch of seals who are utterly adorable, and captained by a gruff old walrus. First you need to head to the front desk for registration, then the boat launches off.


It's quite fancy and extensive on board. There's a swimming pool, a bar, a garden, and a casino among other facilities. Unfortunately, the seals in charge of handling Hat Kid's stuff broke the Time Piece she's after. The shards are scattered all around and you need to find one in every room to put it back together.


They may be cute, but they're not really that good at their jobs. Also they all speak in hewwo. Getting all the time piece shards helps you to learn the layout of the ship, which is really important for the next act.


The captain is frustrated with the incompetence of his crew, so he gets you to help out with some chores around the ship. This is where knowing the layout is good, as you have to complete all the tasks fast enough before the captain gets too upset.


Being a delivery girl might not be the most glamorous job, but Hat Kid needs to do it if she wants that time piece. The more stuff you carry at once, the more it wobbles, so you need to be careful.


At the start of Act 3, the captain takes a break, but warns you not to touch the steering wheel. Of course, you have to do just that. Surely with Hat Kid at the helm of such a titanic vessel, there won't be any trouble, right?


...Oh. Well. So much for that, then.


Now you have to rescue passengers from the sinking ship and get them safely to their lifeboats. It's a lot harder to navigate since everything is tilted sideways. You can't swim in the freezing water either.


The captain is determined to go down with his ship (sure, he won't drown, but he could pretend for a bit), but Hat Kid is here to rescue him too. It makes him wonder how Hat Kid is strong enough to carry him with one arm, too. Once all the passengers are safe, the boat sinks to the ocean floor and you're rewarded with the last Time Piece. Thankfully no one noticed that Hat Kid was the one who originally steered it into the iceberg. Maybe it's not a happy ending, but she got what she wanted.

The music for The Arctic Cruise is pretty relaxing too.

144 (edited by Mezzopiano 2018-12-05 22:03:26)

Re: Mezzo's Obligatory Ice Level Month

Day 5: A Symphony of Frost and Flame (Warcraft III)

After the release of World of Warcraft it was thought the Warcraft real time strategy games were an abandoned franchise, but the classic Warcraft III actually got some updates this year, and there's now a remaster in development. Of course, just because the remastered version is coming out sometimes next year doesn't mean we can't revisit the original. A Symphony of Frost and Flame is the final mission of the campaign for the Frozen Throne expansion.


The rogue demon edgelord Illidan has come to the Icecrown Glacier to destroy the Frozen Throne, and he's brought his blood elf and naga allies with him. If he succeeds, the Lich King will be destroyed and the Undead Scourge will be undone.


Standing against him is the human prince turned champion death knight, Arthas. Neither side in this conflict is truly "good", honestly, but it can be argued you're on the evil side, as you control Arthas and have to protect the Frozen Throne from Illidan's advances. The goal is to take control of the four obelisks protecting the throne chamber. Whoever owns all four first will succeed.


Unfortunately, you start off with nothing while Illidan's forces already control a large chunk of the glacier. You have to use your starting troops to wipe out a naga base, then construct your own. All the while, Illidan has bases built at two obelisks already, and he'll capture them while you're busy getting an army together.


To capture an obelisk, Arthas or Illidan needs to channel at it for 30 seconds. You want to try and kill Illidan whenever you see him, but unfortunately that's no easy task. As a level 10 (the cap) Demon Hunter he has high evasion, can burn away your heroes' mana, and will shift into demon form for an HP boost when his health gets low. As for your side, Arthas starts at level 2 but can level all the way up to 10, and you also have the crypt lord Anub'arak as a secondary hero.


In addition, you'll also have to deal with attacks from Illidan's minions, the blood elf prince Kael'thas and the naga sea witch Vashj. Both of them are level 10 as well, and they can do some serious damage to your bases if left unchecked. Capturing the obelisks sounds easy in theory, but it's actually nightmarishly hard thanks to having to deal with all of this at once. Using your heroes well is the key, and thankfully Arthas and Anub'arak are both pretty resilient.


Honestly though, I went and broke out the cheats after a critical mistake in the last few seconds cost me everything. This mission can take over an hour to beat, so I didn't want to waste all day on it. Once the Frozen Throne is secured, you're treated to a cutscene duel between Arthas and Illidan, and then Arthas ascends to the throne and takes his place as the new Lich King.


Re: Mezzo's Obligatory Ice Level Month

Day 6: Chilling Dungeon (Wizard of Legend)

In the land of Lanova, the Chaos Trials are an event held annually. Magic users from all across the land come to compete and test their skills against the council of mages. However, only those few who complete the trials can earn the title "Wizard of Legend."


This is a roguelike with a lot of customization options. As a new entrant into the trials, you must complete three dungeons in one run: a fire-themed one, an earth-themed one, and this lovely ice-themed dungeon. Contestants are allowed to bring four spells of their choice: one basic arcana, one dash, one standard, and one signature, plus a relic that gives a passive effect. Thankfully there are no mana bars to worry about, only cooldowns.


My build here is an ice dagger for melee, a dash that leaves an ice decoy, and a pair of spells that surround me with damaging icicles and snowflakes respectively. In addition to these, you can find more arcana in the dungeon to up your loadout to 6. And there are a whole lot of spells: 5 elements with 24 for each, to be exact, so you can always come up with new builds.


Most of the enemies faced in the trials are constructs made from raw magical chaos. They can sometimes have a fighter, mage, or thief oriented skill set, and some of the ones in this dungeon are imbued with ice magic. Water and ice are considered the same element, so they're strong against fire and weak against electricity. Thankfully their resistance isn't that much.


You also occasionally have to watch out for traps like falling icicles, spike pits, and spikes on the walls. The enemies are vulnerable to these too, so some clever maneuvering is helpful here. Enemy attacks can interrupt your spells, but you can interrupt theirs with your own, so seizing the initiative is crucial in combat situations.


And of course, since this is a roguelike, you want to hold on to everything you can. I also picked up the Feulled Berserk arcana, a fire spell that gives a massive speed boost to my ice dagger.


Each level ends with a miniboss that is essentially a stronger version of one of the standard enemies. After you beat two stages, you meet up with the end boss for this part of the trials.


Frost Queen Freiya is a member of the wizarding council, and a master of ice and water magic. She's here to freeze you in your tracks.


Her attacks include ice spears, a giant ice blade, water bombs, and hail storms among other things, and she's wickedly fast too. Unfortunately, I ended up taking a barrage of snowflakes to the face, and my run ended here. I haven't actually beaten this game yet; while I've managed to clear every dungeon individually, I have yet to beat all of them in a row. Oh well, I guess that victory will arrive another day.


Re: Mezzo's Obligatory Ice Level Month

Day 7: The Summit (Super Smash Bros. Ultimate)

It's here! It's here! The new generation of Super Smash Bros. has arrived! And it has an ice level! After the absence of ice worlds in Smash 4, this is a welcome return to form. Smash Ultimate is the return of every prior character and many stages from older Smash games, plus a lot of new stuff.


If you've played Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii, you'll recognize this stage. It's based on the NES game Ice Climber, which I'm certain far more people know about through its inclusion in Smash than have ever played the original. Nowhere in Ice Climber sure looked this detailed though.


As the fight goes on, the tip of the mountain breaks off and goes sliding down. This adds some extra jump height for everyone, but if you fall onto the ice below the sliding mountain can crash into you for some major damage.


Eventually it lands in the water. You can swim here, but it's not recommended since if you linger too long the big fish from Balloon Fight pops up and eats you. Why is it here and not in the Balloon Fight stage? Who knows, probably because it was in Brawl. Also, check out that polar bear chilling at the top with his cool pink shorts. That's an enemy from the original Ice Climber.


New to this installment is the ability to play any stage with the classic 3-platform Battlefield layout. Here, the platforms take on the style used in Ice Climber's bonus levels. You also get a gorgeous view of the glacier in the background.


There's also the Omega Form option for those who like just a flat plane. This match was visited by a fitting Pokemon too: the Ice/Grass type Abomasnow. When summoned from a Poke Ball it will chill fighters with Blizzard, then use Ice Punch to send them flying.


This match ended pretty well for me and very poorly for Fox here. I'd list the music options, but there are way too goddamn many: 85 for this stage alone! Most are references to Ice Climber and other little-known NES games, but there are a few other tracks too. I actually used some music from The Wonderful 101 for this round.


Re: Mezzo's Obligatory Ice Level Month

Day 8: Forsaken City (Celeste)

Celeste is a game about climbing a snowy mountain, and also about finding yourself and rising to meet new challenges. Celeste Mountain, located somewhere in Canada, said to be a strange place where many odd phenomena occur. A young woman named Madeline takes on the climb because, well, it's there. This entry is going to be a bit different: this game is too big and too difficult to cover in one day, so we're taking it a chapter at a time. There are 7 chapters total, so basically expect this to be a screenshot LP of Celeste for the next week.


The first point on the climb is an abandoned city. Apparently a mega-corporation tried to build a town at the foot of the mountain, but no one wanted to live there.


Controls are simple: Jump, dash, and wall climb. There are also strawberries to collect. Each strawberry is worth 1000 points, which is completely useless since this game doesn't have a score counter. They also don't count as collected until you land on stable ground.


Spiked walls and bottomless pits abound, ready to kill poor Madeline at a moment's notice. Death is frequent, but you only get sent back to the beginning of the screen so it's not a huge deal. There are also some platforms situated on rails here. When you touch one, it launches forward. You can ride on top of these and use their momentum to launch you forward if you're clever.


This little crystal recharges your dash when touched. For whatever reason Madeline's hair turns blue after using a dash. It's never explained or commented on, but it probably has some odd meaning.


Part of the way through, you can stop to meet another climber named Theo. If you miss him in this chapter, he also appears in the second. He's a pretty chill guy from the mystical, far off land of Seattle.


You'll face more jumping challenges as you make your way upward, and there are also hidden strawberries in many far-off rooms. It's really your choice whether you want to try collecting them or not.


Eventually Madeline reaches a memorial to those who died on the climb, and decides it's a good point to take a rest. That marks the end of this chapter.

The music for chapter 1 is First Steps, and could be said to be the main theme of the game.


Re: Mezzo's Obligatory Ice Level Month

Day 9: Old Site (Celeste)

Picking up right where we left off, Madeline decided to rest at a memorial to those who perished on the climb. The next step in her journey takes her through an old ruin from the 1800s. Theo mentioned he was interested in exploring them, so we might run into him again too.


It has a desolate, abandoned feel to it, naturally.


The main highlight are these astral blocks that are found all across the ruins. They don't appear to do anything except get in the way, but they look cool.


In one room, Madeline finds a mirror that gives off an eerie reflection. Then the mirror shatters, and her reflection escapes...


This event also activates all the astral blocks. Now you can zoom straight through them by dashing, and doing so recharges your dash too. However, if you crash into a wall while doing this, it's an instant kill. With this in place, it's a lot easier to get around, and you can pick up many strawberries that seemed impossible to get before. Now Madeline can reach the higher part of the ruins, and there she meets... herself?


Or rather, her creepy reflection, who claims to be a part of her. Apparently the official name for this character is Badeline, but in my heart she'll always be Goth Madeline. She says that Madeline isn't fit to be a mountain climber, and that she should just give up. Madeline disagrees, and her inner goth reacts by chasing her through the next few areas.


If you've ever played Super Mario Galaxy 2, or N++, you'll probably recognize this challenge. The creepy Madeline will kill you on contact, but she always follows your exact movement path. Thus, if you always keep moving and never retrace your steps, she can never reach you.


Eventually multiple goths appear, all following your path in sequence. The same principle applies, but you have to be a little more careful to never cross paths with them. After enough chasing, they disappear and Madeline comes to a phone station. She gets a call from someone who might be an old boyfriend? It's hard to say because you never get much detail on them. And then...


Yep. And as soon as she realizes this, the telephone pole comes to life and eats her. Then she wakes up. The real world version of the dream ruins aren't as interesting. There are no astral dream blocks around and no reflections chasing her, but you can meet Theo again.


And even take a selfie with him. After that, Madeline reaches the phone station and decides to give a call to her mother.


Chapter complete.

The music for the dream sequence is Resurrections, which gets increasingly frantic as things go on. After Madeline wakes up, the song Awake plays.


Re: Mezzo's Obligatory Ice Level Month

Day 10: Celestial Resort (Celeste)

As she proceeds up the mountain trail, Madeline happens to come across a hotel situated on the mountainside, and decides to take a closer look. It might be a weird place for a resort to be, but who knows, maybe this is a popular tourist destination. The building seems quite spacious, and there doesn't seem to be a way around, so going through appears to be the only option.


The approach to the front door is a bit dilapidated, and it's locked too. You need to find a key to get inside.


Thankfully, grabbing it doesn't take much effort.


Once Madeline is inside, she meets the hotel concierge, Mr. Oshiro. He's probably a ghost, but no one is really sure. It might be more weirdness generated by the mountain. He's happy to welcome Madeline as a guest and offers her a room in the presidential suite on the top floor, ignoring Madeline's statement that she doesn't want to stay.


Unfortunately, the hotel is kind of a wreck. There are these red blobs everywhere. I don't know exactly what they are, but they are red, and blobby, and will kill you if you touch them. Some of them move around in circles, or back and forth between walls.


Oshiro leads Madeline to a room filled with random junk. Madeline can't reach the key to the elevator with all this stuff in the way, so clearly she needs to do something about this mess. Three pathways open up from here.


In a hidden room not far off, you can find a nifty little secret: A computer that lets you play a prototype of Celeste made for the Pico-8 pseudo-console. It plays more or less the same as the main version, minus the wall climbing.


Anyway, the main targets Madeline needs to reach are three switches like this, each of which removes one type of clutter from the area. After helping Mr. Oshiro clean everything up, you can continue on.


Turns out Theo's stuck here too. He thinks Mr. Oshiro is creepy and Madeline shouldn't be doing anything with him, but Madeline wants to stick around and help. Theo realizes he isn't going to change her mind, and leaves to try and escape through the air vents.


After some more blob-based platforming, they arrive at the presidential suite. It is indeed luxurious, if you ignore the fact that it's been abandoned for years. Madeline tries to give some compliments, but that fails when Goth Madeline breaks out of the mirror, tells Mr. Oshiro that this place is a wreck, and breaks a hole in the roof.


He doesn't take it very well. Now you have to race across the rooftop while avoiding his attacks. He'll hang around the left side of the screen, then charge at you. You can hit him on the head as he passes by, which is cute but doesn't really do anything, as he comes back about a second later. After reaching the end of the roof, a piece breaks off, and he calms down. He realizes he has to close the hotel for repairs and allows Madeline to leave.


Maybe it's not a satisfying conclusion for him, but at least Madeline can continue on.

This chapter opens with the track Checking In, then transitions to the more haunting Scattered and Lost later on.


Re: Mezzo's Obligatory Ice Level Month

Day 11: Golden Ridge (Celeste)

The sun has dawned after Madeline leaves the cursed hotel, and it shines brightly on her next destination, a narrow cliffside.


One of the first things Madeline runs into is an old woman. This is actually the second time meeting her; the first was in the prologue.


She tells Madeline she knows a shortcut back down, but Madeline is still determined to head for the summit. Madeline also calls her crazy, which she doesn't deny. After all, you'd have to be a bit crazy to live in a place like this.


She leaves Madeline with a bit of advice. It's pretty important.


This area is often visited by high winds that impair Madeline's movement and jumps. They can blow to the left or right, but either way they generally make things more difficult. There are also some clouds to bounce on. The pink ones disappear after one bounce so your timing needs to be good.


There are also these little bubble things floating about. When you jump into one, you can make it launch you in any direction, and it also recharges your dash. They're handy little things, but you want to make sure they launch you at the right angle.


Later on, you'll see some moving platforms that activate when touched. They always move in the direction of the arrow, but you can adjust their path a little bit by standing on or clinging to the little panels. In some cases you need to "escort" one of these across the screen in order to make a particular jump.


Late into the stage, the wind becomes so fierce you can barely move. You more or less have to depend entirely on dashes for your horizontal motion, and one mistake will send you flying backwards. That makes the platforming in this part extremely difficult. Eventually, Madeline meets up with Theo again at an old cable car. They decide to take a ride, as it's the only way to cross the chasm.


And then it stops in the middle. Madeline is going into a panic attack, and Theo tries to get her to calm down. He gives her an old family tip: Imagine a feather, and focus your breathing on it.


You need to hold A in sync with the feather and match it to the window on the screen. After doing so, Madeline calms down and the car starts up again. She runs out as soon as they reach solid ground.


They got a great selfie, though.


The music track for this chapter is Golden, which reflects Madeline's unease quite well.