The “Level Up” Illusion

It’s a staple mechanic of so many games, a simple metric for measuring advancement, a point of comparison to where you were compared to where you are, and where other people are around you. Levelling up unlocks new skills and powers, grants access to new gear, and ultimately makes the whole process of murder-hoboing through life a far flashier affair.

But here’s the thing… Continue reading “The “Level Up” Illusion”

Enjoying Failure

I suck at computer games, that’s a fact. Actually I’m not incredible at games in general with a few important exceptions. Weirdly there’s no consistency, I’m pretty good at chess and yet my strategic skills seem to fly out of the window as soon as I sit down to play any other game that needs them; luck does not favour me, my dice have shown me this, and only the presence of someone with considerably less luck than me can fix my dice.

So why, in the face of such constant defeat do I persevere? I’m certainly no glutton for punishment, and success is always preferable, that’s universal. Yet time and time again I will revel in my failures, and often they’re far more memorable than my victories… but in a good way.


For those of you unfamiliar, Besiege is a game still under development that was opened for early access about a year ago (January 2015) in which the player is presented with a simple task, something along the lines of “destroy that building” or “get past all those things and sit there”. The challenge then becomes building the vehicle that moves and destroys.


You never really know exactly how much effort goes into making something steer until you’ve actually tried to build something that does. It’s also a fascinating process incorporating fire into a structure made almost entirely of wood. Time and time again I have scrapped the lot and gone back to the drawing board amidst a heap of burning rubble, defeated by a stationary windmill positioned infuriatingly on a ridge that I can’t quite climb, and yet still I will try again.

Now failure itself is an enjoyable experience in Besiege, watching the vehicle you spent better part of half an hour on shake itself to pieces the first time you attempt a turn, or gods forbid anything so radical as a trebuchet arm. Yet going back to the beginning repeatedly becomes a pleasure too, revisiting simple problems from the ground up leads to a process of trial, error, failure, tweaks, adjustments, failures, and eventual, accidental success.

I daren’t even attempt flying machines.


There’s a recurring issue I have with platformers, and that is every time I fall to my death it seems to take me a long time to return to where I failed last. I’ve been playing Alice: Madness Returns, and I got increasingly frustrated with one very simple point. It wasn’t a puzzle to be solved, something hidden to be found, or a fight I found beyond my abilities, it was a couple of jumps that I was struggling to judge, and the walk back to the point where I could attempt it again took a while to get back to.

Also, the invisible platforms are kind of mean

Extra Credits did an entire video on the subject [skip to around 4:10], but the moral of this story is very simple: the faster you get to try again the more fun you’ll have. Platforming games in general tend to leave you with a long walk back to where you fell and you’ve usually managed to get through a few tricky obstacles in-between times.

Moreover, defeat in a platformer is rarely that fun. Instead of the wildly disastrous explosions of Besiege, we have disappointing falls as a result of bad timing. It’s a genre that finds a lot of love amongst people for whom skill is a pursuit and success is its own reward, but so help me I love a spectacle and a good story because I play to be entertained, and I prefer to tax my mind more than my reactions. A failure can be – and so far as I’m concerned, should be – as entertaining as a victory.


We fail so that we can learn, that’s a fairly simple fact. If we succeed at everything then we will be no wiser for it, although paradoxically our lives would be perfect.

Every failure is an opportunity to learn, trial and error, to see what brings you closer to your end-goal, and what takes you further away. This is true of everything in life, so each and every time your defeats become smaller it comes with the slight twinge of success, something that you carry forward to your next attempt and an opportunity for a new discovery.

These rules apply to gameplay, design, practically any skill you can name except for base jumping. It’s a learning process that is both enjoyable and highly effective.

Secret of the Magic Crystals

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Steam
Price (As of March 2014):
£3.99 (Steam)

Please, don’t make me do this.

Oh gosh, I said I’d review what’s on my Steam list, slowly but surely… But this? This is beyond silly now. Do I seriously have to review this? Am I seriously going to review…

Secret of the Magic Crystals – Raising them horses


I’ve restrained myself and I will review this from a purely objective standpoint. I will review this based on graphics, game play, music and story. As I always do. I always do this. I will do this my friends. For this is what surprised me:

It runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. Huh. That’s a bonus point from me! It’s simply because this was developed in the Unity engine. The price point for this game is so low as really, the dev team who made this did so under the premise that this would be an easily accessible children’s game. I mean, what could be better than a horse raising simulation?

Wait, this is a magical horse simulation? Now we’re talking! Unicorns, here we come!


As far as I’m aware, this games story is that your father was a professor who found magic crystals. Of course, that doesn’t make sense to the well taught people of the world, thus he was ridiculed until he was away from his profession of being a professor. He might have went insane, as he then gives you a crystal and away we go. We, a young child, are now running a ranch.


In all seriousness, this is a children’s game. It’s intended for children. This is a simple story for children which means we can get right around to the game play. Remember though, this was made solely to test Unity. Kind of. It wasn’t really. It was just a game that was made for children and of course, this was a good way for them to test their newly acquired Unity skills.


If there’s one thing we’ve learned, is that ponies attract people of all ages, both genders and more – for many different reasons.

Some like the fact they grow into full sizes horses which are useful creatures to have around. They can be a riding horse, they can race, they can help with tasks.

Some can even sparkle.

Oh no… Not this again…

But, alas. I cannot complain about Secret of the Magic Crystals artwork. I really cannot find a way to complain about the art in this game. It feels picturesque like this game should do. It’s a touch “Magical” in how it looks and yes, it is all well represented.

If I were to even try to nitpick it, even though many laugh at this game and its existence, when you consider it’s a children’s game… I can’t nitpick. There’s nothing really wrong.

So just to sate my hunger for finding a flaw in the artwork: I’m not a big fan on how the two possible playable characters look. It’s a design thing, not a problem with the graphics (Or even a problem with their design. This is purely a personal preference point of view.)


Finally, a weaker point!

Well, the music in Secret of the Magic Crystal is very minimal and, whilst does feel somewhat magical, is exactly that second to last word: “Somewhat”.

The audio quality is good, however the music of choice is pretty substandard. But what can you expect? This isn’t a game about music, this is a game about raising your own pet Pegasus, unicorn and other such magical equines. You may just be able to make it out in the upcoming video! That’s right, SPOILER – There may be a video coming to GeekOut South-West shortly!

Game play

I’ve got you cornered now game!

This is a game that is basically a “Choose what you want to do” kind of game. You press a button and see the effects.

“How is that different to, say, Pokemon?” Well, okay. In a Pokemon battle, it’s not. Outside of battle, Pokemon is a whole different type of game. In Secret of the Magic Crystals, everything is about clicking where you want to go (by pressing, for example, the “Stables” button). You then click to determine what you do there. You press the brush – You go to brush your horse.

So there are mini-games of sorts where you can brush that horse yourself. Sure, you can get your horse to pull some planks of wood along. Sure you can get your horse to train… Oh, my word! Have…

Have I just proven myself wrong?!

This can’t be!

There are strategy guides of this?

That reminds me, there are strategy guides of Pokemon.

It all makes sense. Secret of the Magic Crystals should be looked into further.

The research begins.


This is a game that is for children, let’s make no mistake. However, to a more serious gamer, perhaps they could find something that keeps them coming back. There seems to be strategy to be the very best, that no one ever was.

So if graphical ponies are your thing, this is the game for you.

Secret of the Magic Crystals gets a mighty 3.5/5 from me.

See, it’s not the best review score I’ve ever given, but there’s something about this game that people could get stuck into. There are supposedly loads of items, many different equines to raise and hey, it’s sparkly. You even get to catch rainbows!

I’ve collected pieces of a video on this game. That’s right, my first ever play of a game which will be featured on here, once I sussed out how to get it all done. Am I proud of the video? No! But, you know what? It’ll be a learning curve, an experience and it might even be downright silly.

It also involves a guy who has a croaky voice from doing a full days work beforehand. Horrah!

Let me know if having a video here works for you or if it doesn’t! The video isn’t going to be up for a while, so do bare with me while I figure the best way to get that on here. Once it’s on, I’ll send the message around once more.

Discuss – Have you experienced this game? Did you receive it from a friend when it was just $1 as a joke like I did?

What did you make of it? Was it too childish? Did you love it? Is pony raising your thing!? Tell me more, as hey, I want to know if anyone else received this game from a friend or if they went out of their way to buy it. One thing is certain though: The game may have become something of a “joke” online, but the developers are the ones who are laughing. They even seem to enjoy the jokes around the game. How do I know this: I don’t… But they seem to enjoy the fact people are playing their game. Even if it isn’t for the “Right reasons”.