It’s March now, and we’re in the height of “Christmas II”, when all the games that missed the holiday season come out more-or-less at the same time.
The last few days have seen a pair of rather significant releases in the form of Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite, which are seriously testing my resolve to not spend more than 20 bucks on a computer game, and the result has been that I have been avoiding signing into my Steam account so I don’t have to see most of my friends list playing one or the other.
Hence, I spent the week playing “Dante’s Inferno” on the Xbox 360, where I have few friends and where most of them are playing some game called “Netflix” whenever they DO log in.
Dante’s Inferno is an odd beast. It is, from what I am given to understand, a blatant knock-off of Sony’s God of War series that takes its inspiration very lightly from the 14th century poem, and managed to offend fans of both. Also there was something about Electronic Arts running a competition where the grand prize was a night with an escort service, which I suspect sounded like a great idea in a 4 PM Friday marketing meeting when everyone just wanted to wrap up for the week and they were out of better ideas.
So there’s that. Also, there’s the “hey, kids, naked ladies and violence at the same time” cutscenes pretty much as soon as you start playing, AND there’s a boss fight against Cleopatra at the end of the “lust” level which I really can’t even describe without feeling like I should slap an age restriction on this post.
I’m sure it’s on Youtube if you’re curious.
So, uh, yeah, the game is basically front-loaded with stuff designed to push the buttons of anyone who’s ever accused videogames of corrupting the youth of the world.
Once you get past Lust, though, it’s like the designers decided that they’d gotten the whole shock thing out of the way and they could get on to making a game where you beat the crap out of demonic hordes for vaguely justifiable reasons. This is where I started rather liking the game, because the beating-the-crap-out-of-demonic-hordes thing is actually quite satisfying. There are a rather limited number of enemy types, so they get a little tedious after a while, but the environments are pretty neat to run around – if, obviously, a little bit depressing after a while. It is Hell, after all, so the designers didn’t have a LOT of options beyond “put lots of spikey bits and screaming tortured souls everywhere”, but moving from “screaming tortured souls in lakes of sewage” to “screaming tortured souls in lakes of boiling blood” to (my favorite) “screaming tortured souls in lakes of molten gold” does at least make for variety in a sort of heavy-metal album art way.
Combat is a pretty normal affair. You have a weak spammy attack, a strong attack that’s kind of easily interrupted, and a ranged attack. There’s a combo meter, and building longer combos helps power up a “retribution” attack where you go all crazy for a minute. Occasionally you have mid-fight QTEs to finish off tougher enemies and, uh, I could pretty much copy this paragraph into any review of any brawler EVER and fill up space so I’ll move on.
Occasionally there are platforming and climbing bits, and there’s generally one plainly obvious path that takes you towards your objective and one rather less obvious path that takes you out of the way and leads you to a power-up or collectible of some type. Again, perfectly normal stuff, but the sort of thing that can be quite satisfying if you like hunting for hidden things.
It also has a morality system, because every game since Bioshock has needed a morality system. Granted, the game is about descending into the depths of Hell to seek redemption, so a morality system rather fits the theme, but it’s probably the most imbalanced system of its type that I’ve ever seen.
When you fight certain stronger monsters, or when you come across random damned souls, you’re given the option to “Punish” or “Absolve” them. Punishing them raises your “Unholy” level, while Absolving them raises your “Holy” level. As these levels raise, you gain access to advanced skills on either the Holy or Unholy side of things, which can be purchased with the souls released when you, as previously mentioned, beat the crap out of demonic hordes.
Of course, if you look through the skill trees, the last stuff on the Holy side is all about shielding yourself and regenerating health and getting health back when you defeat enemies and boosting your ranged attacks, and the last stuff on the Unholy side is rather geared towards melee combat and damage while not doing a bit of difference for survivability.
Furthermore, Absolving damned souls lets you play a mini-game which gives you absurd amounts of the souls you use to purchase skills, while Punishing them just raises your Unholy level with no side benefits.
So, well, it’s a really bad idea to play as a jerk – and, in fact, looking at reviews for this game, it’s pretty obvious which reviewers decided to go the Unholy path and which decided to go the Holy path because the reviews are split almost evenly between “this game is too easy” and “this game gets really hard and the bosses are unfair”.
There’s also a VERY cheesy tactic which I used to get through two of the rougher boss fights – you can buy health upgrades (which come with a full heal) at any time, so you technically have a very limited number of full heals.
The game was decidedly NOT balanced around this, so I was able to blow through the final boss fight on the first go even though I completely flubbed the bit where I was supposed to watch for a light on the ground and stand in the light and start a QTE to blah blah blah blah I just hit the guy with a big scythe until he fell over.
End result: I get to crow about actually beating one of these things on “Normal” rather than “Easy”, and that’s a good day in my book.
I’ve been watching quite a lot of anime lately. This shouldn’t, in itself, be all THAT surprising – I got sucked down that particular rabbit hole back in 1990, a major concern when plotting a move is “how do I deal with all of these DVDs?”, and my home office is decorated in Maid.
Thing is, though, I’m not often in the mood to just sit down and watch something, as opposed to playing a game, so I very rarely commit to sitting on the couch for the 6-to-12 hours it takes to watch a series. So… I have a ton of DVDs to WATCH, which makes it even harder to decide what I want to watch and the whole thing gets sort of circular at that point.
On the other hand, I’ve been doing an awful lot of time on our exercise bike in the last couple of months – as much as two hours a day. Result: Plenty of time where I can’t do anything EXCEPT watch stuff.
At first, I went on a bit of a nostalgia kick, so I watched all of the Bubblegum Crisis and Crash OVAs, the AD Police OVA series and Gunsmith Cats.
Then I went for stuff I hadn’t seen before. I’ve gotten through all of Android Ana Maico 2010, Wandering Son, The Enemy’s The Pirates, Noir, and Infinite Ryvius. I made a little detour into british sci-fi for Day of the Triffids and my wife and I have been working through “Sanctuary” wherein Captain Carter from “Stargate” inexplicably has a British accent.
I’ve had a couple of false starts – Azumanga Daioh, while an excellent show, just wasn’t keeping the pedals turning and I need to track down a new version of Lyrical Nanoha because the quality of the one I had was pretty bad and I gave up on it after four episodes. I was also having some troubling getting into Working!! (Which is, yes, the sequel to Working!) which was quite odd as Working! was a personal favorite.
I haven’t done anything insane like tackling an entire Takahashi series. That way lies madness.
I am working through the mid-90s Studio Pierrot catgirl-cop series “Hyper Police” right now and it’s proving to be silly fun. I remember trying to watch it a few years ago and giving up on it as being just TOO goofy, but it is precisely what I need after the back-to-back angst fests of Noir and Infinite Ryvius.
So I’m getting exercise in AND getting titles off my “watch this someday” list all at once. It’s been a pretty good couple of months.
As a geek with a heck of an investment in the Apple “Ecosystem”, it was a rather odd feeling to walk into the AT&T store this week, flush with the excitement of finally being free of my most recent two-year contract, and NOT walk out with a brand-new iPhone 5.
I just couldn’t do it – I looked at it, weighed it in my hand, and couldn’t escape the feeling of “meh” that comes from “this does everything your old phone did, but has an extra row of icons!”
In a way, this is Apple’s own doing. Since I bought an iPad last year, I really haven’t been using my phone for anything other than email, web browsing and social apps like Facebook and Twitter.
Oh, okay, and Miku Flick.
With that in mind, I actually started looking at what else was on offer, and wound up going home with a Nokia Lumia 920, a windows 8 phone.
I will be generous here, and say that this really is the TurboGrafx of phones – neat hardware, very little software and an anemic ecosystem – but I’ve always had a soft spot for the quirky ones.
For several minutes on my morning commute, I was behind a car with a bumper sticker that said “CHACO”.
I spent the entire time trying to figure out what the first C might possibly stand for.
When I played Patchwork back in December, I thought that it was a relaxing and thoroughly charming point-and-click adventure, but bemoaned the difficulty of actually finding somewhere to BUY the darned thing – it was distributed as part of an indie games bundle, and I only managed to pick it up because a distributor was selling the bundle for a few weeks after the initial offer ended. It was also effectively 8 bucks after currency conversion, which isn’t historically all that much for a bundle of five adventure games but I am spoiled by Steam sales.
Now the developer has gone and released it for free, so there’s no reason not to spend an hour or so of your life clicking around.
Speaking of regular Saturday night pencil-and-paper RPG groups, I got talked into signing up for YET ANOTHER social network type of thing, this one rather specific in its focus – it’s for people who collect Japanese figurines from games & anime, and it’s more or less a way to show off your collection and find out about all kinds of toys that you wouldn’t otherwise know existed. It could be a quite dangerous site, in other words.
It’s not perfect – it’s all done by community contribution and the database gets a little sketchy when you’re more than a decade back, so I have quite a few older figures that just don’t show up – but it’s pretty good and helps scratch the exhibitionist itch. It also lets me feel like I’m contributing when I send in photos of unpackaged figurines – far too many of the photos on the site are of poor entombed toys desperately longing to be set free of their plastic prisons.
a) Having a regular Saturday night pencil & paper RPG group, or
b) buying this shirt from shirt.woot specifically to troll the members of my regular Saturday night pencil & paper RPG group:
Of course, there’s always option c), which is buying this shirt specifically to troll the members of my regular Saturday night pencil & paper RPG group, knowing that it’s based on an older design instead of the “G4″ Friendship Is Magic designs, actually being AWARE that there have been multiple generations, and being pretty sure that – even in those older generations – none of them had a cutie mark on their foreleg.
Yeah, that’s probably about as bad as it can get.
If you need me, I’ll be in my living room watching the football, drinking the beer and practicing the belching.