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.
I have a dirty confession to make: I bought Disney Infinity 2.0 a few weeks ago and haven’t played it once.
It might, in plain fact, be an amazing game, or it might be awful, but it honestly doesn’t matter, because the toys are really neat. They’re representations of the characters done in a style that eliminates excess lines but which looks really good, they generally have very active and expressive poses, and the entire line seems calculated to reach down into that part of the geek brain that says “I want that on my desk” and give it a good tug.
I will deduct some small amount of points from Disney for releasing a Maleficent based on the live-action movie rather than the classic version, but that is a minor quibble considering that the Tinkerbell they released at the same time is, as the kids say, TOTES ADORBS and DO WANT.
Do kids actually say that sort of thing? My exposure to them is limited.
Skylanders, by contrast, are these ugly spikey things that I have no affections for, even though I have personal reasons to think very highly of the Toys for Bob folks and am glad for their commercial success.
Anyway, TWO successful lines of NFC-enabled collectible toys inevitably spawned a third, so now we have Amiibos taking up an end cap in the electronics section of my local megamarket, and this led inevitably to me standing in front of this end cap trying to decide if I needed to add any of them to my shelves full of maids and similar figurines.
Most of them are really well done. The Kirby and Yoshi figurines in particular are fun, Pikachu is good, the Mario is as top-notch as you would expect, and the Fox McCloud looks fantastic except for the heartbreaking way it raises the faintest spectre of hope that there will one day be a Krystal Amiibo and we all know that we will never actually get one.
Wait, no, I DO have a single complaint about Mario. He’s shown as chucking a fireball and the purist in me screams that he should be wearing his red and white outfit if he’s doing that. I’ll forgive it though as long as they eventually put out a variant though knowing Nintendo it would be a Japanese Club Nintendo exclusive and we’d never actually see it in this country.
But I digress.
The store was out of Samus but there was a picture of the Amiibo on the display and I suspect that it should look quite good in reality.
…and then I got to Link and Peach, who both look, well… out of place next to the rest of the characters. They’re more realistically-proportioned and maybe have a little too much detail for a toy at their scale, and just don’t fit in with the more cartoony figures.
Personally, if I was in charge of making multi-million-dollar design decisions for an internationally-famous videogame manufacturer, I’d have gone with a Soul Calibur II-styled Link, but I appear to not be and nobody wants that anyway, as I would immediately cancel all other projects in favor of putting out a new F-Zero (It’s been ten YEARS, guys!) and Starfox Adventures II, in which you would play as Fox for the first level and then spend the rest of the game playing as Krystal.
Anyway, short version: they’re 90% great-looking toys, there are a couple I think they could have done a better job on, and I somehow managed to avoid tossing any of them into my shopping basket. If Nintendo starts digging into its back catalog of characters, though, these things have a TON of potential. I don’t expect we’re going to see a Starfy anytime soon, but I can at least hope for a little plastic Fawful to call my own.
For the majority of my self-aware life, I’ve been able to divide cold cereal into four reasonably-consistent categories.
You have your “adult” cereals, which category name I confess conjures up images of very specific fetishes, but which I will here use to mean cereals that your parents might eat. Here we have your muesli, your Golden Grahams, your Grape Nuts.
Next, we have cereals for kids whose parents hate them. Cheerios, Wheaties, Kix, purgatory’s cereal aisle made real. Nothing that a massive amount of surreptitiously-applied sugar couldn’t fix, but the sort of thing that suggested that fun was discouraged. Seeing one of these in the cupboard at a sleepover said that you were in a loveless house and that a divorce was likely imminent.
That may be a bit harsh, but both of my childhood friends whose parents fed them Cheerios wound up children of divorcees. So, sample size two, 100% correlation.
Finally, two categories of cereal bought for children by parents who loved them: Inherently-sugared cereals, such as your Fruit Loops and Super Sugar Crisp and Trix, and cereals which had a boring base cereal but were saved by the inclusion of marshmallows or some other sugar delivery method. Lucky Charms is probably the archetypical example of this category, but honestly most kids would probably eat cat litter if you packed it with enough rainbow-colored marshmallows.
To be ABSOLUTELY fair, pack a cool-enough toy into a box of cat litter and your average 8-year old will probably swear on their life that cat litter has ALWAYS been their favorite cereal and that they absolutely do not want it just for the toy and will definitely eat the entire box.
But, that aside, this was the Way of Breakfast Cereal, and it was Good.
Last weekend, I saw this abomination in the aisle at the local Fred Meyer, perhaps created by a well-meaning Cereal Engineer toiling away in the General Mills as an attempt to show even more love for children nationwide, but one which betrays a lack of understanding for the basic principles behind “Part” of your complete breakfast:
By itself, it might be excusable as an anomaly, a curiosity, something that one might buy a box of on a lark and then consume in a single cartoon-fueled cereal binge, I’m not judging and let he who has not emptied a box of Fruity Pebbles by 9AM cast the first stone, but I fear that it might represent the beginning of a trend.
Such a trend, left unchecked, threatens the very balance of the cereal aisle and how it reflects parental affection. What future monstrosities might it birth? Are you ready to explain to junior that he can NOT have a box of “cereal” consisting entirely of small, rather stale marshmallows?
This menace must be stopped. I propose a march upon Battle Creek, Michigan. Pitchforks and torches WILL be provided, though there will of course be a minimal deposit required.
Bastards have owed me a “Tony the Tiger” branded transistor radio since roughly 1982 anyway. I didn’t eat all those boxes of Frosted Flakes for the flavor, dig?
So, as I mentioned a few days ago, I bought the latest Call of Duty game, or at least tried very hard to buy it in the face of a corporation determined to give it to me for free, and I’ve spent an hour or so a night playing through the single-player campaign, which is an appropriately over-the-top affair involving a deranged mastermind and his attempt to take over the world and your attempts to, well, stop him from taking over the world, starring Virtual Kevin Spacey, Not-Sean-Connery, Russian-Michelle-Rodriguez, Two Token Minorities Who Will Be Killed To Motivate You, and Mitchell.
You play as Mitchell.
I don’t normally remember the names of Call of Duty protagonists, but Not-Sean-Connery says your name SO DANG MUCH that it finally kind of sunk in. He talks a LOT, actually, always shouting out about enemies at one o’clock or telling you to plant a charge and so on. This is the sort of game that doesn’t need a strategy guide, because Not-Sean-Connery is always there to tell you what to do next.
Anyway, it was a pretty snappy action-movie story, with some elements ripped from today’s headlines and a super-weapon right out of a 1940s Heinlein novel, and a plot twist that is, well, telegraphed from about five minutes into the game but who cares. Virtual Kevin Spacey is pretty cool, him and Virtual Jeff Bridges from Tron Legacy should work together on something.
Leaving the story aside, the real reason that I wanted to play this was the cool future tech, and it delivered that. You get to ride around in Slightly Oversized Stompy Mechs, ride hoverbikes and jump over school buses in your exoskeleton, there are a couple of drone sequences, and there’s a hovertank sequence that may – just MAY – have finally replaced the tank sequence from Halo 3 as my Favorite Videogame Tank Sequence. Seriously, the designers just tapped right into their inner twelve-year old boy and delivered almost everything that my inner twelve-year-old boy ever wanted.
The game does have one bit of cool future tech that I wasn’t too fond of, though, because it felt like something of a shortcut on the part of the designers. You have these “Threat Grenades”, which, when thrown, helpfully put a red highlight on everything you would like to shoot and a blue highlight on people you shouldn’t shoot right now. Likewise, many of the weapons you pick up have “Target Enhancer” sights, which again thoughtfully turn all of the bad guys into red silhouettes. You can tell when you’ve shot a bad guy enough times because your sights are intelligent enough to realize the moment that he has shuffled off the mortal coil and the highlight goes away.
I played through on Normal, and I’m kind of curious whether the higher difficulty levels turn off this sort of assistance or whether they work in the more traditional method, where all of your opponents are crack shots and you are wearing personal body armor made from Kleenex(R) brand tissue-paper.
I understand there’s also online multi-player, which I should not try because I suspect that my inner twelve-year-old boy is no match for the ACTUAL twelve-year-old boys who I would likely be playing against. That said, I’d dearly like to see any of them try their hand at Sinistar. We’d see who was laughing then.