the artistry and psychology of gaming


The Desolate Hope

The Desolate Hope

Welcome to Gaming on the House; don’t look down and and mind your step! Each week, we’ll be climbing the rooftops of the gaming industry to seek out great experiences that everyone can track down and play, and the best part is they’ll all be free! That’s right; FREE! Gratis. Comp’d. Unbound. Unrestricted. Zero-down. On the House!… we talk about free games here, is my point.

Many may be surprised at how many fantastic games are really out there that everyone can legally enjoy with no monetary commitment. Taking together all the flash and browser games, freeware downloads from the independent scene, speed programming archives, free-to-play business modules, and even promotional re-releases from big name publishers, there’s a never ending supply of great games new and old waiting to be played, and it’s our goal to play them all! So, if you’re strapped for cash or just waiting around for that next big release to hit retail, why not give these games a try? After all, they’re free; what have you got to lose!

August 2012 is the final month of NASA’s Year of the Solar System, a public outreach initiative that first began in October 2010 (lasting one Martian Year in full). Each month, YSS has offered a new theme for educational projects, and to celebrate the successful completion of the program, Gaming on the House will be joining in on its final recorded theme “Discovering New Worlds,” focusing on freeware games that look to the stars, and seeing just how far our own sense of discovery can take us!

The Desolate Hope

Far from home, and far from reality

Genre: Platforming RPG Adventure
Link to Game:
Game Info: Released in April 2012 by Scott Cawthon as a followup to “The Desolate Room”

Unmanned spacecraft and robotics are an integral part of NASA’s mission, and each of the global space programs for that matter. It’s through technology that we will be able to make our first forays into the unknown reaches of space, sending machinery to test out areas in advance for eventual human cargo. This past month, humanity took an exciting step forward with the landing of the Curiosity Rover, which among its mission objectives will be testing atmospheric and geologic conditions at the surface to determine the viability of life on Mars in preparation for eventual colonization.

It’s this same guiding logic behind the backstory to The Desolate Hope, where we find ourselves in Lun Infinus, a research station centered on an unknown planet far from Earth where humans have sent a series of intelligent robots (called “derelicts”)  to determine the best method for human colonization through hours of simulation. However, unlike NASA who will be monitoring Curiosity’s move with great attention, the Derelicts have been cut off from human communication, their last transmission from Earth having been received thirty years ago. This has led the derelicts to reconsider their mission in developing methods for planetary colonization, as they are now unsure of exactly what has happened to humanity. Abandoned by their makers, and with power running scarce, the derelicts face their own struggle for continued existence with the threat of a computer virus; their only hope falling to a small gaming circuit board tapped into the last mobile robot on the base… a coffee pot.

Coffee Pot action hero line of choice: Perk YOU later!

The Desolate Hope is an interesting anomaly for a game, combining three very different types of play, all the time held together with a visually striking art style. The game is primarily a platformer, where players take control of a walking coffee pot as he journeys through each of the four Derelict’s simulated worlds to seek out and destroy the virus threats. In the platforming sections, you’ll come across various enemies that can be fairly easily taken out with your gun, as well as friendly robots who will talk to you and offer you various upgrades and options. These sections are not incredibly challenging however their individual maze-like designs are creative, and feature light terrain puzzles you can conquer with your upgraded inventory (X-ray goggles to see blocks that can be broken, higher platforms that can be reached with the hover pack, etc).

Found inside the simulations are also the sub-games, virtual constructs that play out like dungeons from the Legend of Zelda, or the recent Binding of Issac. Enemies, doors, secret pathways; all can be encountered in these virtual worlds, and the randomly generated enemy appearances make these areas an ideal place for grinding chips (this game’s currency). The objective of the sub-game levels is to locate “fissures” in the construct, where destroying it unlocks an additional bonus for the game’s third gameplay type; the boss battles.

Boss battles are the main objectives of the game to complete, and play out as an exciting timed turn-based RPG with one heck of a HUD. As opposed to the other two types of play featuring keyboard controls and your lovable coffee pot, battles are fought with the mouse and you now fight as the four active Derelict robots. Actions are scaled to a charge menu, where you can complete an available option, or wait a turn to charge up for higher options, making for 9 actions assigned to each of the 4 robots. There is a fair amount of strategy at play for each of the fights, as you’ll soon find out having everyone straight up attacking the boss is a surefire way to lose, and the players available options don’t stop at the four derelicts alone; tools like hacking, heal buttons, and lasers come into play, while setting “conditionals” (the rewards for completing sub-games) allow for actions to be set to complete after something happens in battle – automatically healing after taking damage, for example. What’s perhaps the most adorable addition (and possibly the thematic result of the protagonist being a computer game chip) is that there are in-battle minigames to add in, such as a shooting gallery and a driving game, that you can start up to gain additional multipliers and bonuses for your characters to help them out.

As you can image, the fights can get pretty chaotic, and a little disorienting, so it’s worth pointing out that if you are unable to sit through strobe effects or are prone to seizures due to flashes of light, this game may not be for you.

What’s perhaps amazing is that despite all of this, the options at play don’t overpower your characters and the fights still prove challenging towards the end (bosses hit hard and have a lot of health), and in treating the battles as somewhat of an end-goal, the other two gameplay experiences are designed in a way to support it. Sub-games unlock conditionals and are the best location to grind for money to buy battle upgrades as already mentioned, but the platforming stages also offer bonus pickups that add to the derelict’s meters like the bonus games, giving you the option to charge up before entering a battle. Furthermore you can take your coffee pot outside the station at night to pick up objects that can be given to your derelicts to level them up (this game does not feature experience points).

Talk about threat levels, this boss may actually kill humans with his screen flashes

Unfortunately, I’m of two minds with The Desolate Hope. I very much enjoy a lot about this game; it’s takes on platforming, dungeon-crawling, and RPGs is unique and well mixed together so that one type of play benefits the other. It also has some incredible visuals, with very detailed character designs and a classic cyberpunk attitude, but not also without a bit of whimsy as well (one derelict has given up on his mission, becoming a toymaker and has begun recreating his simulation with child-like automatons). The graphics are charming as well, almost lost in time, feeling more at home in the mid-90’s when 3D was just beginning, as they present faux-3D sprites across 2D backdrops (Think Donkey Kong Country).

On the downside, there are certain things about the game that become repetitive (grinding in sub-games, waiting for nighttime to end, and fighting the same bosses over again, but with higher stats), however my main complaint has to do with the game’s ending, as the game’s creator seems to have decided to take some extra liberties with what has been his captive audience. I feel that the ending, which I can understand is the result of the designer’s personal opinion, comes off as out of place for the game’s setting, unnecessary towards pushing the game’s overall narrative, and frankly, it leaves me with an overall negative impression of the motivations behind the game’s existence. As a matter of disclosure, I feel that I should note that there is a message at the end of this game, one not everyone is going to agree with.

Despite this, I can’t help but recollect how much I was enjoying the game up until the end (I imagine this is what Mass Effect fans went through earlier this year), and still can’t help but compliment the game’s visuals one last time. It really is a quality game, one that’ll last around 10 hours or so, and it offers an exciting take on space colonization along with an intriguing story for about 4/5ths of the total playtime.  I think the game looks and plays great; I just wish that coffee pot shut his lid.

One Comment

  1. Hey there, usually I try not to respond to comments about my games, whether positive or negative, because I understand that some people will like them and some people won’t. I respect everyone’s opinions. I’m an amateur game maker, I’ve never pretended to be anything else. :o)

    But in this case I feel that it’s important to clarify the intent and message in The Desolate Hope. For the most part, reactions have been very positive toward the game, and it’s ending as well, but I wanted to address these concerns about the ending and message, and share some about how I feel on the subject.

    Concerning the dedication at the end of the game reading “This game is dedicated to the children who never saw childhood.”, I would encourage everyone to read it to be exactly what it says and nothing more. That statement isn’t a political view on abortion. I have an aunt whose baby was strangled by it’s own umbilical cord in the womb. I know another woman whose baby died for unknown reasons in the final weeks before delivery; she had to give birth to a dead baby (I can’t imagine how awful that had to be). I have a good friend who had a miscarriage only a few weeks into her pregnancy, and while some certainly wouldn’t consider that a baby yet, it was a child to her and she cried for weeks, even naming her “Willow”. A friend of mine from high school had a young daughter who drown in a swimming pool when she was 2. With those children in mind, I absolutely dedicate my game to the children who never saw childhood, because they die from hunger, from natural causes, from unnatural causes, from accidents, and from unknown reasons, every day. Everyone reading this forum has lived a full life already compared to the millions who barely taste it.

    I did however, remove the dedication from the actual game because of the potential for people to interpret it the wrong way. That only hurts the message of the game, which is one of love and not of hate, and certainly nothing political.

    And concerning the message of the game, it WAS about choice. It wasn’t about abortion rights or stem cell research or anything like that. It was about the power behind taking something- something small and insignificant by any standards, something that has no right to exist and wouldn’t exist, and then someone choosing to give it importance and give it meaning. The baby in my story is similar, it’s implied as being not completely natural, probably grown from a test tube for the purpose of research, and had no right on it’s own to exist, and certainly not to expect a childhood or a normal life. But the game is about the power of a choice, to GIVE that, against all odds and expectations, a life to something that wouldn’t have had it otherwise. That is something powerful and something beautiful. It’s the same when someone chooses to adopt a child, you are giving a childhood to someone who wouldn’t have had it otherwise.

    Is that principal all about abortion? No. Can it apply to abortion? Of course it can. Lets say that a woman is pregnant, maybe she doesn’t want to be, maybe it’s a product of rape. Whatever the circumstances are, they’re bad, and no one would blame her for aborting that pregnancy. But now imagine if, of her own free will, going against everyone and everything around her, she chose to keep it. Then imagine that she even died in childbirth for that baby as a result of that choice. As appalling as that example is- if a mother made that choice, would you accuse her of hate, or of love?

    So I understand that there are very heated debates and strong opinions about this, and angry people on both sides who fan the flames. But this game was made with good intentions, with love, and with children in mind from my own experiences who I wish could be that little girl from my game, getting the childhood they never had in real life.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *