I recently discovered that, according to the incredibly depressing steamleft.com, it would take me 184 days of continuous playing, without breaks for sleep or eating, to finish the unplayed games in my Steam library. That ignores all the console games lying around the house, of course.
In response, I am playing through Half Life 2 for the fourth time, because it’s still bloody amazing even ten years after it first came out.
I find that I still can’t stand Ravenholm. Goddamned poison headcrabs all up in my grill and what not, made worse because I was trying for the achievement where you don’t use any weapons but the gravity gun and for some reason thought that I could use the crowbar. That one’s on me, but it’s still a little annoying.
Oh well. Time for Fun With Ant Lions and The One Bit With The Bridge, which I quite like.
So, not many posts recently. Normally I blame MMO addiction, and I HAVE been spending too many hours in Everquest, but I actually had some excitement over the holidays that has had me somewhat distracted. The short version is that I wound up in the ER on Christmas Eve with some pains of unexplained origin and then wound up having surgery on New Year’s Eve to have misbehaving parts taken out.
I can’t actually say it was a thoroughly terrible experience. I have some serious hospital phobias, and my wife has frequently expressed concern that I would resist going to the hospital even if I was in dire straits. It turns out that pain is a fabulous motivator in overcoming phobias.
So that was a thing.
Now I will put that aside and talk about My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks, the awkwardly-titled sequel to last year’s Equestria Girls, itself an anthropomorphized movie tie-in to an animated series based on an updated version of a girl’s toy line from the 1980s.
Other guys get to say things like “I like football” and everyone knows what they’re talking about. I wouldn’t have a hobby you could explain in three words.
While Equestria Girls was somewhat divisive, I quite liked it, and I liked the sequel even more. It’s bizarrely continuity-heavy for a movie aimed at young girls, with a ton of references back to the first movie and to early seasons of the show, which is rewarding if you’re maybe just a little obsessed but which might make it kind of opaque if you haven’t got a head full of pony trivia.
It also carries on the Friendship Is Magic tradition of going deep into the Monster Manual for its villains. Really, this show is going to be responsible for girls having a surprising depth of knowledge re: mythological creatures of all sorts and sizes by the time it’s over.
The one concern I had going in was that, well, it’s a musical and I’ve been pretty disappointed with a lot of the music from seasons 3 and 4. It seemed like several episodes have had songs shoved in where they weren’t really needed, and not many of them have been up to the standards set in the first two season.
Given music-themed villains and a battle-of-the-bands plot, however, there’s no reason NOT to have roughly half the screen time taken up with musical numbers, and they’re pretty definitively in the category of “catchy”.
I liked it. 10/10, would watch again.
Now to really geek out. I’d recommend stopping here unless you want to see just how deep my personal rabbit hole goes.
So, in the first movie, Pinkie thinks she recognizes the humanized Twilight, but it’s one of those one-off lines that gets forgotten pretty quickly. In the post-credits scene of this one, we find out that there IS a Twilight in the human world and that she’s become aware of the weirdness happening at Canterlot.
Now, pony-Twilight has had a steadily-increasing power level over the last four years. She’s gone from getting winded by a simple teleportation spell to being able to, quite literally, level mountains. Her one vulnerability is that she’s not willing to risk her friends.
I will leave it up to the reader to decide whether Celestia’s sending her to Ponyville to make friends was a deliberate move to make sure that her faithful student would always have an Achilles heel – or at least some distractions.
Human-Twilight, on the other hand, is presumably just as good at science as pony-Twilight is at magic, and doesn’t have friends to protect or to temper her single-mindedness.
I am now REALLY looking forward to Equestria Girls 3: Twilight vs. Twilight.
I’m still playing Demon Gaze, and it remains a terribly enjoyable game. The level of fan service has dropped off considerably as I’ve gotten further into the story and dungeon crawling, so I suspect that it may have been front-loaded for the sake of hooking lightly-pervy fanboys.
I’ve also finally cracked open the actual game that came with my small plastic Avengers figures and given that a shot, to admittedly mixed results. I am loving the ability to download user-created levels and mix up universes and characters, but the story mode is a little… Uninspired, thus far. The first level was a pretty straightforward romp through Avengers tower, but that’s the point where I got spit out onto the streets of Virtual New York to start a series of fetch and escort quests for Nick Fury.
On the plus side, the guy they got to voice Fury sounds surprisingly like Samuel L Jackson, so I half-wonder whether he actually did voice work for the game.
I’ll keep at it – and I have the Guardians story to play through as well – but it is not the main draw of the game for me as of just yet.
Now, downloading a fan-made level where you fight Chetauri in the streets of New York, and then dropping in an Elsa figure to blow them up with freeze rays, THAT is sheer cackle-inducing joy and the part I can quite thoroughly recommend, although it may be somewhat bad on the wallet if I let myself indulge in too many classic Disney characters.
Speaking of small plastic things that are bad on the wallet, I find myself quite grateful for being just a few years too old to have grown up with the NES, because it let me look at Amiibos a few days ago, admit that they were kind of neat, and walk away from the display without feeling compelled to actually buy any of them. I rather feel for the crowd for whom these characters represent their childhood, because they are getting hit by the absolute worst sort of scalpers.
I’m not the best person to talk about visual novels, because it’s a genre that I rarely have patience for. While it’s probably unfair, I associate them with the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, which were 99% horrific endings and painfully frustrating unless you cheated by, say, looking through the book until you found the good ending and then figuring out the chain of pages that would bring you to it.
I also used to take apart my Rubik’s Cube. So sue me.
On the other hand, I do enjoy a good horror game, and some of the most-highly-spoken-of are visual novels. I’ve been sitting on the Corpse Party games for a few months now, wanting to start them but not really wanting to go through all the nonsense of getting bad endings, reloading, making slightly different choices, getting a different bad ending and so forth.
Song of Saya, on the other hand, is both relatively short and only has two actual points where the player is asked to make any decision. I will admit that this somewhat stretches the definition of “interactivity”, since the actual bulk of the gameplay consists solely of tapping the enter key and reading.
I strongly recommend headphones for this one, because the audio work is disturbingly effective at selling the narrative, which is about as bleak as you can get. The main character is a bright young lad, a medical student, who was unfortunately in a car accident and whose life was only saved by an experimental and dreadfully risky neurosurgical procedure.
He’s alive, which is great, but he doesn’t see the world properly any more. Everything is decayed and covered in gore, and people appear as gruesome shambling mounds who sound like they’re talking into one of those terribly annoying novelty voice changers.
For an extra twist of the knife, he’s smart enough to realize that the world hasn’t ACTUALLY changed into a heavy metal album cover, but he’s also painfully aware that letting on will earn him a trip directly to the nearest padded room.
The only thing providing any anchor to sanity is that there’s one person left who looks normal to him. She just has a few… quirks.
This is not a game you want to play while idly snacking, because many of the visuals are designed to put you off the concept of, well, eating anything ever again, and the makers have thoughtfully provided a filter that blurs out the more grotesque scenery if you’d like, and a second filter that blurs it AND darkens it.
I went for the “let’s blur that stuff” option and feel no shame in having done so. This is essentially TRIGGER WARNING: THE GAME.
My other warning is that you are very likely to wind up rooting for, well, bad things to happen to good people, just because the game makes you feel so sympathetic toward the bad guys in this particular scenario.
So with that aside, if you like a good horror story, I can’t help but recommend this one.
So, like I mentioned the other night, I’ve been playing a Vita RPG called Demon Gaze. I have a portion of our house that I’ve set aside as a gaming station, so it has a nice comfy chair from Ikea, a couple of TVs and – of course – a nice collection of gaming consoles.
I was sitting in the nice comfy chair the other night playing Demon Gaze, and my wife walked in and asked why I wasn’t playing it on the TV instead of hunched over the Vita screen. She’s seen me use Remote Play to play PS4 games on the Vita, so assuming it worked the other was is quite honestly a reasonable assumption.
I explained that, for some reason, Sony hadn’t seen fit to enable that particular bit of functionality, but that they made a small box that was basically a screenless Vita, and that…
…and that’s about as far as I got before she told me to just order one and call it a Christmas present.
So, since I had a spare Vita memory card and DS4 around, I bought the basic PlayStation TV package.
It works pretty well for playing Demon Gaze!
I expected that, to be honest, since that’s a game really doesn’t muck around with the wackier features of the Vita. It’s really quite nice to be able to play it on a reasonably-sized screen and not having to constantly look down at my hands is much easier on my back.
The PSTV also supports a surprising number of my Vita titles, and of course the majority of PSP and PS1 titles. Again, all as expected.
What I DIDN’T expect was how tiny the thing is. For scale, I have attached a photo below of the device next to another popular Sony product:
At any rate, I’ve always had a soft spot for extreme niche products, and this definitely qualifies. :)
Sony portables have been pretty much rhythm-game machines for me for the better part of this year, so it’s something new to find myself playing Demon Gaze, which is essentially a very pretty take on the Wizardry / Might & Magic formula. You assemble a party, wander around grid-mapped zones, fight monsters and take their treasure, that sort of thing.
The twist is that your main character can capture demons, using a special attack called the Demon Gaze, and then use them to fight for him. The demons are named after planets, for the most part, though a demon named Hermes confused me until I remembered that it’s another name for Mercury. Presumably that means that there will be nine in total, though I haven’t gotten that far.
It’s great fun! I haven’t played anything in this genre in ages, and this one is considerably more forgiving than I remember them being. It automatically maps for you, for instance, and notes hazards and points of interest on the map as you go.
It doesn’t, however, hold your hand when it comes to combat difficulty. When I ran into the very first boss of the game, for example, she turned out to be a chainsaw-wielding maniac who killed my party in two turns.
After the rather nasty defeat, I spent a great while grinding up levels and buying the extra inn rooms that allowed me to have a third and fourth party member, and the return visit went much more positively.
If you like random loot drops, this game does them pretty well. You get a ton of vendor trash as you fight through the assorted bizarre creatures, but every now and again you luck into a seriously powerful piece of kit that leaves you feeling – at least for a little while – like a merciless god of destruction.
Then your paladin gets one-shotted by a Vorpal Bunny and the feeling sort of fades.
No, really, Vorpal Bunnies. Note dead paladin on the right.
While building your party, the game will make suggestions as to which sort of compatriots you might like, and it leads you towards a very traditional sort of group, with a tanky sort of character and a healer, but it allows you to override its suggestions and go with any sort of party composition you might want. If you want to tackle the game with four wizards and your Demon Gazer, well, go right ahead and see how that works.
I’m boring, so I took most of the game’s default suggestions. It’s been working out pretty well even at the default difficulty, and the option to lower the challenge is always there if I need it.
So far I’ve run my Vita completely out of charge once playing it, and that’s about as high of praise as I can give.
There is, of course, one little caveat to the whole thing, and that’s that it turns the fan service up to, oh, about seven. I desperately would LIKE to say that it turns the fan service up to eleven, but in all honestly I’ve played games with a lot worse in them than panty-sniffing catgirl maids…
…but you still may want to avoid playing this one on the bus.
Over the years, I’ve made something of a habit of trying unusual items from the snacks and drinks sections of various Asian supermarkets. Generally this works out pretty well, to be honest, and I have a lot of personal favorites from doing this. It can be bad when I get hooked on something, because there’s usually very little warning for something going out of stock, never to be seen again, but that’s another issue.
Most of the poor experiences I HAVE had involved artificial shrimp flavor, so with the exception of that I will try most anything.
This, however, was something that I honestly don’t have the courage to try:
I’m still trying to imagine what sort of taste this might have, or what sort of consistency. A braver man would have dropped the 79 cents and at least taken a sip, but I am not that man.
I did get a can of Crunch Crunch Pear, which seems much less risky.