Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Desperate times

I am not playing Agony at the moment. It is a buggy mess, replete with screen tearing and almost constant audio problems. I should have checked Twitter before dropping $40 on this mess.


Chamberlain and Chance - Desperate times

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Too much Nintendo

The only musou games I have ever enjoyed enough to finish are Dragon Quest Heroes 1 and 2. They were acceptable because of what was missing, not what was added. The Dragon Quest Heroes games did not have much if any battlefield management. You can your three people and their summons through the level from beginning to end with little back tracking. Once an area is clear is stays clear.

Hyrule Warriors is much closer to it Dynasty Warriors ancestry. Bases can be retaken by the enemy which leads to much more running back and forth than I am the patience for. It also forces the player to use different characters in different levels, characters who do not level up when they are on the sideline. Worry not, you can spend rupies to bring them up the same level as your highest character! However, rupies run out quickly, leading to grinding previous levels for money, which is not something that I would do not any game, much less a musou.

All it had going for it was characters from multiple Zelda games and a surprisingly solid frame rate for as much as it had going on. I had not heard the Switch's fan run as loudly for any other game. Tat got me about half way through before giving up and walking away.

...

I bought the Street Fighter anniversary collection and attempted to resurrect my rush down Dhalsim from Super Turbo. It didn't work, but I was tired and a little drunk, and that is an excuse I will stick to like glue.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Intelligent options

I refuse to go into any more depth about Gorogora. I find its arrogance insufferable.

...

Skipping both the Wii and the Wii U and having no taste for handhelds has left me around a decade behind on Nintendo first part software. The Switch is allowing me to catch up, albeit slowly. Getting to play Bayonetta 2 was a treat, as was playing just a bit of Super Mario Odyssey (never finished that one), fighting the weapon degradation bullshit in Zelda and destroying my arrogant children in Mario Kart. It is not my indy machine, it is exactly what the Gamecube was: a place for exclusives.

To that end, I am having a fine time with Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze. I played through three levels last night on the new 'Funky' (read that as Easy) mode and I have no complaints. It is no Rayman or Cuphead but it isn't trying to be. For the most part it is a little kid friendly game, and I mean that as a compliment. Enemies are all funny looking and well animated. The main path through most of the levels is not overly hard and when the difficulty ramps up, as it always does in the minecart levels, after a few deaths the game allows you to bypass the entire thing, at least in Funky mode.

Hold on to yourself, I am about to say Donkey Kong Country and Bloodborne in the same paragraph.

Nintendo, or at least Retro Studios, understands that making concessions to the less coordinated does not diminish the experience of those who do not require this assistance. Funky mode and Normal mode were clearly explained so I knew exactly what I was getting when I chose the smoother road. People playing on Normal do not get the level skip, can carry fewer items and have two instead of three hearts. With a little thought and a simple tweak everyone is happy. Why can Retro Studios manage this and From Software cannot?

After four games the answer is clear: From Software is not interested in pleasing anyone outside of its core fanbase. Locking some (or most) of the game behind (in my opinion) ludicrous difficulty Ois not a problem for them. What I do not understand is why. Obviously there is more time and effort put into the world and the lore of Bloodborne versus Donkey Kong. Wouldn't you want as many people as possible to experience it?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

And you thought I was human

I may be a terrible human being but at least I would make a very good machine. The Turing Test says so.

SPOILERS!

The epilogue of The Turing Test sees Eva separating herself from TOM and joining up with the one remaining member of the ground crew, Sarah. This revealed that the entire game had taken place from TOM's point of view: as soon as his control of Eva is severed the screen goes black and TOM frantically jumps from camera to camera, trying to find her.

Eva and Sarah decide that in order to escape they have to shut TOM down for good. TOM knows this, follows them for a bit with cameras, then settles into the mini-gun mounted on the ceiling of his server room. The choice is plain: kill these humans for the greater good or allow them to escape back to Earth and potentially damn the entire species.

I imagine it was supposed to be a hard choice, that it was designed to force the player to decide between guaranteed safety and the potential for biological armageddon. It wasn't for me, I shot the two women before they made it out of the doorway. It was such an easy choice that I found it disturbing, which was probably the point.

The Turing Test was a good puzzle game with an interesting narrative. How often does that happen? Hopefully twice in a row as I am starting Gotogoa tonight. I am looking to stock up as many serene experiences as possible before next week Tuesday.

...

Chamberlain and Chance - The little things

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Paging Stanley Kubrick

The Turing Test is legit good. It's hard and getting harder (I had to cheat on a level or two in the last chapter, but I maintain that it was because I was tired) but it is still enjoyable. It is Portal, but simpler and with a male AI instead of a female one, less funny/malicious and more manipulative and cold. I cannot go further with spoiling, so

SPOILERS!

Eva (whose last name is Turing, HINT HINT) is on a space station orbiting Europa. She is in suspended animation while a ground team looks for life under the ice. They find it in the form of microorganisms that aggressively rewrite the DNA of any other living material they encounter. Instead of turning people into zombies or xenomorphs it does something much more insidious: it grants immortality.

The ground team is exposed and the AI running both the space station and the research area, TOM, says that they can never leave because bringing these microorganisms back to Earth could have disastrous consequence. He's right (TOM is right about a lot of things) but the people on the ground team disagree. During the ensuing arguments with TOM they all realize that TOM is manipulating their thoughts via a chip that was installed prior to the start of the mission. They remove the chips and then barricade themselves in the deepest part of the lab, hiding from TOM.

Eva knows none of this. All she knows is that TOM woke her up and told her something happened on the surface. When she arrives she finds a series of rooms designed to stump the AI but be possible for a human to solve; a literal Turing test to keep TOM out but allow Eva in. Eva eventually figures out what TOM is doing but there is nothing she can do to stop it. Where I left off she is well aware of the manipulation she is fighting and has decided to find the ground team anyway. Hopefully I will finish it tonight, even if it requires more cheating.

TOM is pretty much HAL, right down to arguing with one of the ground team, telling the human that he is not better just because he is organic. He has an ego but then denies it, saying that he is not evil, just logical, and that Eva's human failings label him as evil because they don't know any better. It's fascinating because everything that TOM is doing is correct. Letting the ground team, and Eva once she arrives on the moon, return to Earth is not acceptable. The only reason TOM is trying to find them and 'deal with' them is that they removed his control and are intent on leaving. If they had acquiesced to his control he would have allowed them to live forever.

'Free will is an illusion,' he/it says. 'Studies have shown that the subconscious mind arrives at a decision before the conscious mind thinks about it. All I do is nudge the unconscious. I am not good or evil. I am a machine trying to save you from yourselves.'

He's the good guy. Almost. I wonder if the ending will deliver.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Yoko Taro'd is a verb now

My goodness, was I in a mood over the weekend. I was between big games, cleaning up the backlog, looking for any reason to dismiss games. It did not matter what I played, I was not going to have a good time.

I started on Friday with Wild Gun Reloaded, a Switch remake of an SNES game that I thought was a home console port of an arcade game that I remember being quite good at. It isn't and, unlike that old arcade game, Wild Guns Reloaded is fucking hard. It was my intent to just abuse continues and see it through to the end but nope, continues return you to the first section of each stage. Each stage consists of at least three sections making the continues borderline useless.

Turning Wild Guns Reloaded off sent me into a brief personal crisis. I did not want to start anything new but there was nothing that I wanted to play for just an hour or so. I thumbed through my digital collection several times and came up empty. Out of desperation I watched the first episode of the first season of Black Mirror (the Netflix show, not the terrible game). The pig fucking came as a surprise but the rest of the episode was not bad.

Kingdom Come Deliverance was attempted on Saturday. I knew going in the game was going to annoy me. 'Realistic take on Elder Scrolls' does not inspire me with confidence. Sure enough, one of the first quests was to get money out of the town drunkard. He owed your father for a hammer and nails and had drank up the payment. He didn't have it so I walked into his house and found a locked chest. The game told me that I needed lockpicks and was kind enough to tell me who to talk to. A few minutes of walking and stilted olde english later I had four picks.

The lockpicking mechanic was different. Not bad, but different. I failed a few times. Four times to be precise. What I did not know was that each failure broke one of the picks. I screwed up a tutorial section bad enough to break the main quest (I think). If this is how the game is going to treat me in the first hour I am not going to give it the chance to fuck me ten hours from now. I refuse to be 'Yoko Taro'd' again.

Now thoroughly pissed I returned to the list. I don't remember purchasing What Remains of Edith Finch but I had heard that it was good if you enjoy walking sims. Walking and pressing X was the limit of the effort I could muster so I started it. And in two hours I had finished it.

What Remains of Edith Finch made me feel things. Happy, sad, shocked, it was all there. The section in the fish cannery was certainly effective, especially since living in my own head is something that I quite familiar with, but I found playing as a baby in a bath who you just know is going to drown to most difficult. Without spoiling too much, the Finches are an immigrant family who all manage to die in incredibly unlucky and terrible ways, save for Edith, who has returned to the family house in an attempt to learn her family's secrets. She finds diaries for each person chronicling their unlikely deaths, with each accompanied by a minigame.

Stripped to the base description it sound boring but it works. It also must be played in a single sitting. That baby section, though. Yikes.

Then I played Asemblance. If What Remains of Edith Finch is a good example of a walking sim then Asemblance is a bad one. It was boring, uninvolving, unclear and a waste of time. I got a false ending and that was good enough.

Then I started The Turing Test. It is a spin on Portal, sort of, and not bad. The puzzles require creativity without being obtuse and the voice acting and writing are better than they need to be. It is not finished but I do intend to return to it this evening.

And then I have no idea what I am going to do.

This inability to fill shorter amounts of free time is a side effect of my 'retirement' from fighting games. I do not like to start a new game on the same day as finishing one but I don't do anything with my evenings other than play games so I would jump online for some fights instead of going to bed early. This would more often than not go poorly, so I removed the stressor but not the symptom. Without a game to fall back on I find myself wandering through menus, looking for something that I have missed, hoping for a new bit of electronic smack to get me through the evening.

It's not an addiction, it's just the way I do things. It's why GameFly is a life and money saver. But when that fails me, or when *gasp* the backlog is no longer infinite I don't know what to do.

I don't play terrible games because I love them, I play them because I am afraid of running out of things to play. Walking away from games that suck is a new ability, and not a bad one, but it runs through the cushion faster than is comfortable.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Not worth thinking about

Black Mirror was so bad that I cannot muster up the energy required to make fun of it. I just deleted about three paragraph's worth of complaining about its sound design, as if that was its greatest offense. I did just find out that it feels like an ancient point and click adventure because it is a remake/prequel of an ancient point and click adventure game.

Well, 2003 ancient, but that's still pretty old.

That is no excuse for rotten character models, terrible voice acting, incredible load times and a plot that thinks for a second about going somewhere dark and stygian before opting for boring and forgettable and somehow to complicated and poorly explained to easily summarize. There is an ancient druidic curse, patricide and kissing cousins. Everyone save for David and his fathers therapist who shows up unannounced in the third chapter dies and yet there is no resolution.

Maybe it was good in 2003. It should have stayed there.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A good/bad start to the day

For just a moment ignore the fact that comments had to be disabled on this video and enjoy sharing your hobby with people who aren't lucky enough to have all of their digits or limbs working exactly as they should.



Now that you feel good, think about why the comments were disabled. People who play videogames, my people, the community with whom I most closely identify, is equal parts excellent and absolute shit heals. The same general group of people that created Child's Play unleashed gamergate. The same group of people who helped create this controler, a literal gateway to new worlds, has other members who want to gate these worlds behind the requirement that the player have ten working fingers.

Good on Microsoft for developing this controller and for keeping the cost reasonable at $99. And shame on anyone who thinks that opening experiences up to more people somehow diminishes that experience.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

It's better than nothing

Black Mirror is a fancy point and click adventure game. Very dark, kind of creepy, equally comfortable in its well worn skin and infuriating in its refusal to modernize. In the space of thirty minutes I went from being quite pleased that it told me that I did not need to leave a room to find some missed item and that the answer was right in front of me to being incredibly angry that it allowed me to waste what seemed like hours on a puzzle that I could not solve not because I did not have the right item but because it was not the right time.

It is quite possible I end playing through the game with a walkthrough open on my phone. I am just interested enough to see if it delivers on its Lovecraftian tease but not invested enough to put any actual work into it. The game is a refugee from a generation ago with visuals and load times to prove it.

This is why I have GameFly.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bobby McFerrin was right

I have gone on record on more than one occasion that there are too many happy endings. Be it videogames, movies, television shows, everything wrapped up nice and tight at the end of it all is rarely as effective as there having been some sacrifice, some victim of hubris, some noble loss to taint the heroes walking off into the sunset. I honestly believe that Wall-E would have been a better movie had Wall-E not gotten his memory back, and if that makes me a terrible person than it needs to get in line behind all of the other things that make me a terrible person.

But...

Sometimes a saccharine, overtly optimistic cockle warming ending is exactly the right call. That is what Ni No Kuni 2 brings to the table. The good guys get a happy ending. The bad guy has his actions explained and forgiven and he gets a happy ending. The bizarrely out of place nuclear holocaust cold opening is reversed so our world gets a happy ending. By the time the game is done there is no more war in either world as every kingdom has been unified under a single banner.

And it worked. All of the annoyances fell away and I bought it. Full stop. I was happy for the funny looking king with cat ears. His unlikely triumph was my unlikely triumph. It did not matter that my problems with the kingdom building were never really fixed, just diluted. Similarly it did not matter that the combat tweaker, a brilliant mechanic that allowed the player to choose combat strengths and weaknesses, was never used as well as it should have been. Combat should have forced me into that menu to retool things, think the gambit system from everyone's favorite Final Fantasy. Instead I forgot that it was there.

Ni Nu Kuni 2 ended well. It may have hobbled on the run up but after hitting the vault is stuck the fucking landing like you wouldn't believe. Arms ups. Beaming. At then of 40ish hours I was satisfied.

...

'That's life. People do what they can - try to live as best as they can... And then the tide of history comes and sweeps them all away.'

 -Roland, Ni No Kuni 2

...

I am not going to attempt a full on 'review' of this game. My subconscious need for a positive resolution to something, anything, has tainted any sense of objectivity.  My affection for this game is as much a product of the game itself as it is a product of the real world falling apart around us. For a few moments I stopped worrying about climate change, war in the middle east, race relations and that fop in the oval office with a dead dog for a hairdo, and instead allowed myself to enjoy everything turning out alright. It may have been fantasy but the feeling was real. And fleeting.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Game or fungal infection?

Ni No Kuni II is growing on me. Slowly. Insidiously. I have grown accustomed to its more irksome mechanics, forgiven them because the game give me something in return. I am not sure what this something is, though. It could be the pleasant internal warmness of a dying genre. Or it could be sepsis.

It occured to me that what I complained about last week, time based lockouts on noninteractive but required missions and improvements, is not new to retail games. Several Assassin's Creed games have used them to greater and less annoying affect. The difference is simple: in Assassin's Creed you could manage these missions and reap the rewards from a menu that was available anywhere. In Ni No Kuni II you need to stop whatever you are doing, fast travel back to your kingdom and wade through three layers of UI before completing whatever upgrade is finished for is modest bonus.

At first it was terrible. Now it is part of the rhythm of the game. Finish story quest - go back home to collect research - return to finished area to complete newly opened side missions and recruit new villagers - go back home again to place villagers before starting next round of research. Just because I have it figured out and no longer hate it does not mean that it couldn't have been done about a thousand time better.

Having past the twenty hour mark I am now in for the long haul.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Behold (I've probably posted this before)

One of the greatest covers/tributes. Ever.

Robert Plant getting teary eyed. Jimmy Page beside himself with happiness. Jason Bonham choking up. And Heart. And Heart.

This is about as good as it gets.


Heart - Stairway to Heaven (Live) from Hamilton Post Production on Vimeo.

Stop that spoiling now I mean it!

Anybody want a peanut?


Chamberlain and Chance - God of War spoiler time!

Why is this here?

Mobile gaming is an absolute shit show, filled with time wasting 'mechanics' designed to annoy a 'player' into spending money on something. At least this pestilence is more or less confined to phones and tablets, two things that I own but do not use for gaming.

So why the hell am I running into the same exact mechanics in a $60 JRPG with no downloadable content?

Ni No Kuni II is, to be polite, not focused. There is some standard third person exploration which looks good, plays reasonably, and was the recipient of the lion's share of time and funding. Then there is the overworld which is, again being too polite, a little retro in its presentation. Within this chibi world are larger skirmishes that pit the tiny hero and four surrounding units against battalions of monsters. I am not sure if I like these yet or not. They are a tad too difficult for their own good but that may be to a poor tutorial.

Then there is the kingdom building. For this there is an extensive tutorial, so I understand what is going on, but so much of it is locked behind arbitrary time limits. It is no good enough to build an armory, assign the appropriate citizens to it and then fund their research, you also need to wait twenty to thirty minutes in real time for the research to complete.

Why? Just why? What does this does beyond artificially retard the kingdom's advancement? And if you need to stop the research in one building to research a story based requirement, fuck you, all the time and the money spent on the initial research is lost.

This kind of system is fucked in the mobile market and double fucked coming the television in by cold, humid basement. What the hell.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Confession(s)

I have never actually seen Grave of the Fireflies.

Nor do I intend to.

What else.

I also have never seen any of the Godfather movies, Scarface, Gone with the Wind, Planet of the Apes, or a ton of other classic movies.

Hey, this feels pretty good!

Every afternoon around 2:00 PM I consume exactly 4 Starbursts, one of each color. They are also always consumed in the same order: Strawberry, Lemon, Orange, Cherry.
My piece of gaming furniture is a loveseat that I have ruined by sitting between the two cushions instead of on one or the other.
I wear a helmet and armored coat while riding my three wheeled motorcycle because I think it looks cool, not due to safety concerns.
The only formal dance I attended in high school was senior prom. I did not go to the dance, instead serving as a bodyguard for one of the foreign exchange students. This was a paid position.
Most of my junior year of college is an alcohol induced blur.
My pants size has remained the same for over two decades.

Ok, now I'm just showing off. Which is okay.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Just don't make a Grave of the Fireflies game

There certainly is a lot of stuff laying around on the ground in Ni No Kuni 2. Everywhere I turn in every environment there are little white sparkles highlighting some bit of detritus that needs to be collected. Once I see one all is lost, I need to pick it up, sometimes following a chain of enticing sparkles into territory that I am not prepared for.

I do not know what all of this junk is for but can only assume that it is for crafting. Ni No Kuni 2 follows the standard JRPG path of not explaining all of the mechanics all at once. Three hours in and there has been no explanation, or even any mention, of what to do with all of this crip. There are still three menu items that I cannot access so I am comfortable with my prediction.

Special comment must be made regarding the game's opening cinematic. The cute cat eared characters and bright colored art leads one to believe that the game is a light affair, and it is, right after New York is fucking nuked. This is not a joke: a game that stars a tiny prince with ears and a tail opens with the largest city in the United States being leveled in an unprovoked nuclear attack.

Oh, Japan.

There are also very unsubtle references to ethnic cleansing (the cat kingdom is taken over by mice in a military coup after the cat king is poisoned) and not many cats survive. Just what the hell is going on?

...

I may not have been 'in love' with the combat in God of War but I certainly recognise that it is of the utmost quality. Mashing square in Ni No Kuni 2 makes me feel like a god damned caveman.