Blueberry Garden paired with Blueberry Blonde

For this week’s pairing, I decided to work backwards. Typically I find an indie game I want to play and then select a beer that matches the game description. This time, I started with the beer first: Blueberry Blonde by Big Muddy Brewing. After my steam backlog turned up nothing, I decided to search “Blueberry” on steam and play whatever came up. What I found was Blueberry Garden, a game released back in 2009 that received “mostly positive” reviews. The art-style has a simple, “sketched-out” look to it, and the protagonist is derpy/adorable—a great match for my aesthetic. The pairing was perfect: a game set in a blueberry garden and a beer brewed with natural blueberry flavor.

The game, however, was far from perfection.

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The premise is not given. You are simply put into a world without film sequences or dialogue. But the developer doesn’t just abandon you there; cue cards pop-up on the edge of the screen to provide you with the basic controls: up arrow to open a door, down arrow to pick up objects, enter to eat fruit, space bar to jump, hold space bar to fly, and hold “H” to go home, a.k.a respawn, at the start-point of the game.

According to its Steam entry: “Blueberry Garden is a short and experimental game about exploring a strange world. It is set in an ever-changing ecosystem and your goal is to find out what’s going on among the softly swaying trees and mysterious creatures living there.”

That’s pretty vague. Really what this game is about, amongst other things, is finding a way out before the water completely rises. What do I mean by “amongst other things”? I have no clue, but I’ll give the developers the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think I got close to “find[ing] out what’s going on among the softly swaying trees…” though I suspect there is not much. I played this game for an hour and admit I did not beat it. Here’s why I couldn’t bring myself to see it through:

The first thing that stood out is how inconsistent the soundtrack is: sound effects are always present but the classical piano music isn’t. Additionally, the composition is hokey and contrived background music. It’s soft and out of the way. While some would find this soothing, maybe even fitting, I found that it adds nothing to the game or its environment, making it an ineffective soundtrack.2

The truth is this game is not experimental. It’s a puzzler hiding in a thin layer of “peculiar” clothing. The goal seems to be to find an escape by strategically getting objects (presumably in a certain order) so you can climb/fly out of there. Sure, the art and character movement gives the game a wacky feeling, but really that’s because your character moves very poorly; once you’re amongst the different fruits, rocks, and animals, your limbs flail like a slightly more controllable QWOP runner. It’s silly and fun to look at, but annoying in a game where timeliness plays an essential role.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOcSUDVsdu4

Really, the only thing experimental about this game is how little of the world you can see when you’re flying through the sky. With collecting objects from certain places—before they become engulfed in water—being a crucial part of your success, it feels like the developer is tying your hands with poor design instead of challenging you with legitimate puzzles. In this case, “experimental” feels like a marketing spin on poorly made.

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The beer, on the other hand, was an experiment gone right. Often when beers boast about a distinct flavor, it’s a bit of a punch in the face. This can be a good thing, but Big Muddy Brewing side steps that all-together with its Blueberry Blonde. It’s a nice beer with a blueberry presence that’s distinct enough to easily recognize but subtle enough not to over power the beer. It’s enjoyable, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes fruit beers. But for me it wasn’t playful enough. Very simple, it tastes like blueberries. I would highly recommend this beer to people who do not like the taste of beer (which usually means they hate hops or the watery-ness of fizzy yellow American beer).

Pixel Piracy paired with Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar

Since I was little, I always loved pirates. I would ride the Disneyland rides over and over until my parents were sick of it. So whenever I see a pirate game, the ten year old inside me screams “Buy!” Last week, I was browsing the PSN for a little game to kill time when I stumbled across Pixel Piracy. It looked like a fun, retro style pirate adventure, and when the game is actually functioning, that’s exactly what it is.

Pixel Piracy drops you into the Caribbean as a tiny pixelated pirate captain. It’s your job to assemble a crew, gradually improve your tiny ship, and defeat the four legendary pirate captains. Because I guess that’s what pirates do? There’s not really much of a plot, but the gameplay and setting is quite fun. After you spend an hour gathering your various crew members and building a decent ship, the sea battles, treasure hunting, and island excursions are a blast. The game also has a hilarious, if somewhat juvenile, sense of humor to it. You and your crew only communicate in awful pirate speech and bad puns and the descriptions of you and your crew make you chuckle.

But Pixel Piracy is far from perfect. Primarily, every crew member has had a lobotomy. My toddler is more capable than the scallywags I recruited to join my ship. As captain, you spend a majority of your time managing your crew members. But the frustrating part is that they are incapable of doing anything without you commanding them. Even when you’re being attacked by multiple pirates, they won’t defend you unless you command them to attack. You have to teach them to do any task, such as cleaning the deck, fishing, or firing cannons, and half the time they simply won’t do it. I found myself commanding them to go somewhere or attack somebody over and over again with no reaction. They would just stand there twiddling their thumbs while I attempted to take the enemy ship by myself.

The game is also irritatingly buggy. The game froze up several times on me and even refused to save my game once. The most recent bug won’t let me commandeer enemy ships. When you defeat an enemy ship, you can either plunder it for supplies or commandeer it. To do that, you need your entire crew on the new ship and then press the commandeer button. But when you do that, the game will simply ignore the button press, leaving you unable to advance since the game’s still waiting for you to select the commandeer option.

Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar is great if you like nutty beers. The hazelnut flavor is light, and the beer has a nice nutty aftertaste to it. Rogue generally makes great beer, but I’d only had its IPAs before. I don’t know if I can make this a regular beer, but it grows on you after a while. The nuttiness surprised me at first, but I grew to like it the more I drank.

If you’re looking for a fun indie piracy game, and you’re willing to ignore some frustrating bugs, then Pixel Piracy is your game. It’s an especially good bargain at under fifteen dollars. But if you don’t have the patience to reload old sections and redo fights because of a glitch or your idiotic crew, then take a pass. You should absolutely try the Hazelnut Nectar. It’s light, tasty, and just another excellent Rogue beer.

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