I wanted to finish XCOM: Enemy Unknown before 2015 was over and I succeeded. Despite being screwed over by scripting errors in the big “dungeons”, I had a lot of fun with the game. The ending was slightly anti-climactic, but then again, this game only had the barest of storylines. I’d DEFINITELY play it again….once I finished going through the hundred or so unplayed games I already own.
Poker Night 2 (2 hours):
To kill some time while the kids were napping and hang out with my brother-in-law, I fired up Poker Night 2. Finally won Ash’s book!
I’m a seasonal Team Fortress 2 player. Although I play it here and there at any time of year, I tend to really play a lot during October for the special Halloween missions. This year Valve was busy working on a new mode that was released earlier this week so they released a community-made Halloween mode: Invasion. It’s the first time I’ve spent any money since I spent $2.50 to get a bigger backpack a few years ago. Overall, the new modes were a lot of fun and I’m glad that Valve has gone from what should be the basic level of video game company support- supporting community mods- to allowing the best of the best to make money by sharing in the profits made during community events.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! (12 hours)
Here is a game that shows how interesting a video game can be in depicting work. Anyone who’s worked serving food to the public knows it’s a grueling job full of burns and ungrateful customers. Yet, here’s a game in which people gain enjoyment out of the stress of rush hour. My theory is that it’s fun because you can come and go as you please and your livelihood isn’t actually dependent upon it. (Similar to EuroTruck Simulator, Farming Simulator, and all those other European games) I also had one great Saturday session in which I was joined by someone claiming to be from Belgium. He or She helped me out with some tips on how to play and we had a fun conversation. I always love it when I have people join in on the chat.
Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ (5 hours):
The first visual novel I played was Analog: A Hate Story, and readers of this blog will remember that I really liked the story and found it to be pretty emotional. I was hoping that this game would also touch me as other games and regular, written novels do. Instead there was clunky dialog that seemed most often to be written by the tourism board of Japan – containing lots of phrases that wouldn’t be used in normal conversation – like an old comic book. There were also pretty unnecessary anime-like nude-ish scenes. I’m no prude, but they seemed to serve no context, but to be anime-like. I’m more of a either make it count or don’t do it type of person. Like make some consequence of the scene. Or just go the other way and make it a rated R game. The tsundere and normal girl sister routine was also quite trope-y and didn’t add much. I did learn a bit and it’s probably still the closest I’ll get to visiting Japan, but it wasn’t my favorite game.
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger (1 hour):
Speaking of anime, this was one heckuva anime-inspired fighting game. It’s not something I expected to want to play a ton of, so I made it the first game in my version of Dan Demos or Giant Bomb’s Quick Look. I don’t know if this is a new trend for fighting games, but it has much more of a story between matches than anything I remember from my youth. There are even choices to make in an RPG-like setting. I’m not opposed to checking this game out again, but it’ll probably be a bit before I play it as there are other games I really want to play right now.
Civ 5 (40 minutes):
Dan and Dave played a few more turns in our multiplayer games so I did likewise. Perhaps by next year at least one of them will be done.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (17 minutes):
Scarlett wanted to play a round of Sonic 3, so I fired it up.
Yeah, so the first video I recorded in September is missing the video game footage. Whoops! Either way, I finished The Witcher this month. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, this is another game I tried thanks to the Giant Bomb guys – specifically Vinnie. I thought the game was overall a lot of fun. I feel like the throughline of the story could probably have been done a little better. Even before I spent a couple months away from the game, I was only tenuously connected to how my actions were leading to anything being done other than being against the Salamandra. Still, the story was neat and the twist at the end was pretty crazy in a good way. I look forward to The Witcher 2, but I probably won’t get to it until 2016 due to some family stuff coming up over the next few months.
The Stanley Parable (2 hours):
This game hits incredibly close to home since I work in a cubicle farm. The devs have done an incredible job of mixing humor with despair and thriller elements. It’s last Bastion combined with Braid, but messing with FPS and exploration tropes rather than platformer tropes.
Tengami (2 hour):
This game is beautiful and, like a ballet, I’m not 100% sure of what the story was. Still, it was a very beautiful couple of hours.
Road Not Taken (1 hour):
In the video I mistakenly state that this is my first Roguelike. That was a mistake on my part – I forgot I’d played FTL for around 15 minutes. This is a game I’d looked forward to playing ever since buying it on a Humble Bundle. I enjoy the art style and the tone of the game. It’s also a great Roguelike for me to cut my teeth on (ignoring FTL which I played just to see what the fuss was all about) since it is puzzle-based and I do love me a good puzzle game. In the two playthroughs on this playlist at the time that I write this (there will be more videos if I play in future months) I haven’t even begun to take into consideration the crafting mechanic to solve puzzles. I’ve done it accidentally a few times, but I have yet to purposely combine a tree and fire, for example to create a tree that’s on fire.
Civilization 5 (30 min):
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (30 minutes);
Scarlett loves the game and also loves trolling by pausing the game over and over again.
Team Fortess 2 (30min):
Long Live the Queen (15 minutes):
As I explained at the end of the video, I can see that there are some pretty complex mechanics at work here. I think that’s probably the source of the great appeal that many seem to heap upon this game.
Dan and Dave finally started playing their multiplayer turns again. YAY!
The Witcher (14 hour):
Finally was able to find some uninterrupted gaming time. Here’s the video!
If you’re interested in watching, it goes from session 25 through 40 (or more if I forget to update this section before I publish)
Super Mario 64 (3 hours):
Scarlett kept asking me to play until I found the princess.
Later in the month I heard that OBS had finally released their multi-platform version that included Linux compatibility. So I streamed a play session:
I just did a really quick setup so I still have some work to do to get the donations and twitch chat running as it does on Windows with Xsplit. Still, I’m pretty happy with the results. That computer’s not too beefy and yet the audio doesn’t jitter TOO much.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1 hour)
I played a bit with Scarlett and finally made it to my FAVORITE level in Sonic 3 based on soundtrack – Carnival Night Zone! I have to say that while the Mario series certainly had some pretty iconic music, the Sonic producers during the Sega Genesis era were very good at creating great music for each zone. Check out this cover by Vernian Process:
I also loved all the ways they played with Sonic and gravity.
Team Fortress 2 (15 min):
I wanted to see if I could actually play it on Linux now that I’ve upgraded to a much more modern nVidia GeForce 750Ti. Before I was using a card so old, that a year or two ago they stopped supporting it on the main driver.
Also played a bit on my Windows computer to test some donation settings on my overlay:
Assassin’s Creed was the first game series Vinnie of Giant Bomb convinced me to try by talking about it endlessly on the Bombcast. The Witcher is the second. (This is why I miss his voice on that podcast so much) It has turned out to be a lot more fun than I thought it would. It’s based on the Bioware engine of the time, so it plays a lot like Mass Effect 1. The story is good so far and full of nice little jokes. You can watch my progress (I’ve been recording it for Extra Life) on this Youtube playlist.
Civilization V (13 hours)
The third game I played for my Extra Life 2015 playthrough was Civ 5 as Attila the Hun. A fun chance to play a little differently than I usually do.
A Bird Story (1 hour) – this was a very interesting game. I enjoyed a lot of the concepts and the idea that memories are elastic. Another great work of art from Gao, although I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as To The Moon
Katamari Damacy (30 min)
Played as one of the earliest games during my Extra Life 2015 playthrough. Had fun sweeping up the humans.
Pac-Man Chapionship Edition DX (30 min)
The first game I played as part of Extra Life Playthroughs, I just love the satisfaction of eating ghosts in this game!
Civilization V (30 minutes) – We got a few turns in our multiplayer games, but other important things (like planning weddings, perhaps) have kept my brothers from sending me new turns.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+ (38 minutes) – I got it as part of a Humble Bundle because eventually my PS3 will die or be remotely disabled. As I have just transferred my Steam library to a new hard drive (more about that in a future post), I’m more confident in my ability to be able to play these games for a long time. Played a bit on the last day of Februrary to test my new Xbox 360 for Windows controller. It’s still as much fun as I remembered.
Video of one of the time trials courtesy of my youngest brothers wanting to be able to record themselves playing Minecraft. This led me to find Xsplit which I find MUCH MUCH MUCH easier to use than OBS.
Civilization: Beyond Earth (7 hrs): This game was a great evolution on Civ V. I enjoyed that they continued with the same sense of humor. I also thought they did a good job evolving things so that it felt different enough. It’ll probably take a few games before I get the hang of all the government options.
Super Mario Galaxy (1 hr): Just wanted to get past the opening section on my emulator so I could not have to repeat that silly story section again if I even want to play some SMG. Also wanted to test the USB sensor Dan got me for Christmas.
Civilization V (30 min): Still trying to get caught up to where I was before GMR lost our saves.
This year I did not play as many new games as in previous years. I was deep in my graduate degree and most of my free time was during work travel. Since I don’t have a powerful laptop (and Steam on Linux was just taking off early on this year anyway), most of that time was spent reading. Still, I did play some great games and still managed to log in quite a few hours.
Civilization 5 (95 hr): The year started off strong with the fun online games I was playing with Dan and Dave. Then Dave moved and we didn’t play for a while. Then GMR lost a month or two worth of turns. We have the turns on our computers, but we haven’t gotten the system back up yet. I hope we recover the games, I was having a lot of fun. Shoot, I almost spent 100 hrs on this game this year.
Poker Night 2 (13 hrs 30 min): I played here and there when I just wanted to play a quick game. Also sat by Danielle while she played to see how she thinks about Poker strategy. Still haven’t gotten more than one player’s token.
Hate Plus (8 hrs): Sure, it’s a visual novel and somewhat (par for the genre) a dating sim. But that’s way too reductionist. This is a powerful reminder that video games are no less valid a medium for talking about important issues than books, movies, and TV shows. Comics have been fighting the same fight, but are further along with more people considering them art than with video games. This is old hat for readers of this blog, I’ve been declaring various games as examples of art for a while now. However this sequel/prequel to Analogue: A Hate Story is a cautionary tale of how just a few unchecked changes here and there lead to a world that’s worse of for all except those in power. Games like this remind you that Rome didn’t go from Republic to Empire overnight.
Analogue: A Hate Story ( 4 hrs): It seems as though there’s at least one game each year that really pushes and pulls at my emotions. I found myself caring deeply about the fictional characters in this game, especially the main character. Her deep inability to understand how profoundly the world has changed and for the world to understand her was just so sad.
Poker Night at the Inventory (2 hrs) – Played to get all the items.
Xenogears (1 hr) – Just started this. Looks like it has a lot of potential, but I’m not sure how much patience I still have for the Square style. We’ll see.
Team Fortress (1 hr 30 min): This year mostly only logged in for holiday play.
Mario Kart Wii (1 hr 15 min): The Dolphin emulator revives my interest in my Wii games and I bring the discs up to the computer room. Now that Nintendo has turned off the servers, the emulator may be the only way to play online.
Beatles Rock Band (1 hr): Since Scarlett seemed to get a lot out of a concert film of I Fight Dragons, I figured she might enjoy the game. She did and asked me to play a few times. I figure she’ll really enjoy it when she’s older. Too bad the plastic instrument genre died. Maybe it’ll be back one day.
Cities in Motion 2 (45 min): Never did play it again in 2014 after that one time. Maybe 2015? I doubt it, I have so many games to play. Maybe 2016.
Super Meat Boy (30 min): I got this in a Humble Bundle after seeing the Indie Game movie. It was neat, but too intnse for me.
Guacamelee (30 min) – I’ll very likely play this some more. Just need that time. 2015’s going to be an extremely busy year (at least for the first half) so we’ll see.
Oil Rush (30 min): For the moment I’m mostly over RTSes so I don’t see myself playing this again.
To the Moon Holiday DLC (30 min): The sequel was on sale for the Steam Sale. Maybe I’ll get it this summer.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (30 min): We’ll see if the bug bites me again and I play some more.
Game of the Year
This year my game of the year is Analogue: A Hate Story. Christine Love creates this amazing and compelling world full of alliances and betrayals; Secrets kept from spouses. The generation ship gone awry is such a great science fiction trope and Love uses it to its fullest. As I mentioned above, this game was able to mess with my emotions and get me to care. That’s always the mark of great storytelling. If you can get over any biases you may have with the manga art style and the bad rap that visual novels have, you can experience a world unlike any other you’ll experience this year while at the same time being familiar enough to be anchored in emotional reality.
I noticed Dan was on my borders right when I started having the Cho Ku Nu, my special unit. Having played civ and RTS games with Dan, I figured it was strike or be struck. So I went to war. Unfortunately, Dan fights better than AI and because of the terrain features, it became a war of attrition that favored Dan. After a stalemate war, I offered peace and Dan accepted.
Tiny Mesa Civ
Looks like Dan took Dave’s Capital. We’ll see what happens next.
I think this is currently my strongest game. Haven’t met Dan or Dave yet. (Or many other civs)
A Brave New World
My worst game. Surrounded by jungle so moving around takes forever.
Team Fortress 2 (1 hr):
Signed back in to play some Halloween TF2. My game kept crashing to the desktop in the bumper cars where you had to get rubber ducks. Not sure why. Wanted to try out Raptr’s new Twitch integration, but it didn’t work. (I think my graphics card’s too old – GeForce GTS 250) So I installed Open Broadcaster Software and got this in the one time it actually worked:
Dido tried to be opportunistic and attack me while I was at war with the Celts. Now she is facing my wrath. I will not stop until she has been wiped off the map.
Left a contingent behind to make sure the Celts don’t get cute.
About to pay back this city state for attacking me on behalf of Dido.
My most peaceful game thus far. Maybe because of my Great Wall? My borders continue to advance so quickly that my territory spans beyond the Great Wall.
A Brave New World….
I got the latest expansion pack for Christmas and Dave started a new game.
I am doing early exploration of the terrain. Scouting for other civs and for city locations.
Who wouldn’t want to join my awesome civ?
My beautiful capital city. Not much else has happened yet.
Tiny Mesa Civ
I started a new game that has just the three of us competing. After the pounding I’ve taken in the Lefties game, I was curious what would happen if the three of us faced each other without any AIs in the game.
Appropriately, each of us has a civ with a powerful early game unit. Should be the most fun and maybe the first game to end.
If it turns out that I am where I think I am, this is going to be a very interesting game.
Analogue: A Hate Story ( 4 hrs): SPOILERS BELOW!
I bought this game on a whim during a Valentine’s Day sale. I’d heard a lot about the creator and the price was right for something I had no idea whether or not I’d like. It’s now in contention for my Game of the Year. The night after I started this game I spent nearly every waking moment of the night obsessed with this game. I’ve read a lot about people wondering about the future of fiction now that we have e-readers. Clearly the traditional authors haven’t been spending much time with those creating video games because I think this game shows at least one way in which storytelling can evolve in the future. Sure, it’s not the best way to tell all stories, but for a certain segment of stories that revolve around the reader learning about the world and the characters from a state of mystery, I think it works rather well.
The game also contains a conceit right at home with the science fiction short stories I listen to via Clarkesworld or Escape Pod. A generation ship that was supposed to found some colonies was lost hundreds of years ago. Recently someone spotted it and the player is asked to go to the ship and retrieve any data they can from the ship’s records so that their distant relatives on Earth can find out what happened. The player connects to the ship’s Unix-like terminal and eventually launches a GUI to help them go through the ship’s records. The ship contains a helpful AI, named Hyune-ae, who helps to comment on what you’re reading. At first it just seems like a story of mundane fighting among nobles, especially nobles jealous of The Pale Bride who has become the Emperor’s consort because his first wife cannot give him a son.
I love how the horror unfolds little by little and the final twist is gut wrenching. First you learn that The Pale Bride is a girl who had been put into cryogenic sleep in the hope that there would be a cure for her disease in the future. The first bit of tragedy is that somehow things have degraded in the future. People have a lot less scientific knowledge and the society is also backwards compared to where the girl is from (which seems to share our values). Then you find out the AI and the girl are the same – or rather that she uploaded her memories into the AI.
Then a point is reached where it appears there is nothing else to do. So I activated the other AI, Mute. I thought it was neat how you go through all the records with both Hyun-ae and Mute. Mute was the ship’s security AI and she shares that society’s values. So she has nearly the opposite reaction to each of records than Hyun-ae did. Then comes the huge shocker – although she’d been increasingly antagonistic about Hyuna, she tells you to ask Hyuna-ae why she killed everyone on the ship. I’d seen some of the other plot twists (although not many of them) coming, but this one just made my jaw drop. Not only because of how cute and polite Hyun-ae had been, but because the story had treated her as a nearly helpless victim the entire time.
At this point Christine Love showed off her sense of drama and storytelling by suddenly having the ship have issues with the core. The game leaves you and Hyun-ae scrambling with a timer to try and fix the core. So the question and answer the you want most is delayed while you try and keep the ship and your answers (and work) from exploding.
After that you find out why she killed everyone. It was one of the most horrible things I’d experienced in fiction and I actually found myself thinking, for a second, of committing genocide against the society that would think it’s OK to do this to her. Of course, afterwards I realized it was still wrong, but Christine Love left me with so much whiplash that it was then tough to choose not to take Hyun-ae with me when the game suddenly became a slight dating sim. (Which it had kinda been the entire time)
The Korean culture was so integral to understanding the game, that I thought for sure that Christine Love was Korean. However, from what I can tell from my Googling, she isn’t. She’s just incredibly well read in Korean culture. Lack of Korean culture knowledge was not a barrier, but I think I could have enjoyed it more as a Korean or Koreaphile.
As a science fiction story, the only thing I felt was unexplained was getting her memories into the computer. And even that didn’t really come into play until Mute criticized her at one point and said that the AI was just a construct, not really her.
During the Mute section of gameplay there was a lesbian relationship and part of the reason was just to have Mute criticize it. But part of it was to show the beauty of the relationship in a world that tolerated men sleeping around, but wasn’t open to women being sexual in almost any way, especially as lovers with each other. It was refreshing to see another point of view in games. Not only was it great for this one to have a strong female protagonist, but to also have gay characters, but not done in a preachy way, was very neat.
I’ll mention in the Hate Plus review why I actually ended up going back and replaying for the different endings: Hyuna-ae, Mute, Harem. Until I got to hate plus, I didn’t see a point in playing multiple endings. I’m just not that much of a completionist and I don’t have lots of free time.
Hate Plus (8 hrs): SPOILERS BELOW!
Hate Plus is a bit of a play on words because not only is it more information about the world of Analogue: A Hate Story, it also uses New Game Plus conventions of loading a save from the previous game to inform this game of your relationship to the main character. (Go to load to do this – not new game, I didn’t do it at first)
Christine Love creates a reason for replay by having different reactions from Mute and Hyun-ae as we’d seen before. In fact, while I didn’t really have any interest in replaying Analogue for the different ending achievements, Hate Plus, having Mute as the central character gives a compelling reason to replay Analogue, ending up with Mute in order to play through Hate Plus with Mute. Love doesn’t disappoint as you IMMEDIATELY get logs from when Mute first wakes up in the Analogue world, filling in some of the history you didn’t have before – which is a large part of the point of Hate Plus.
As I mention in the preceding paragraph, Hate Plus is a prequel to Analogue. That immediately makes it simultaneously extremely interesting and slightly deflating in that you know how things will end up. My first play-through was Hyun-ae and it was interesting to see how seemingly unimportant small changes led to the vastly different world in Analog. This game focuses a lot more on regular folks who go through the transition period and come out the other side chewed up by the machinations. Unlike the following generations, they didn’t grow up in this new world, so they have a hard time going from a world that appears to have freedoms similar to modern-day America to the world in the first game. We also see the minutes of the meetings of the noble families who control the ship.
It was actually quite depressing to see how, just like today’s politicians, by vying for power and trying to play to their bases, they end up screwing over society. Little changes here and there end up with society less educated to the point where they can’t even read hangol anymore in the world of Analog. I see so many parallels in what’s going on now with anti-science politicians and it worries me. At least we’re not on a generation ship – there are still other countries that may not be self-sabotaging the way we are.
The game has the conceit that the player’s ship doesn’t have enough power to go through all the records in a row. You can only do a few per day. It’s pretty awesome that the game actually makes me wait 12 hours between days to force me to wait and decompress on the info I learned. In practice that led to me waiting until the following day, just like my character in the game.
This game upped the ante on the gay relationships quite a bit, but while the other game was about how it was forbidden and, in some ways, seen as “cute” by one of the husbands, this game was about how the changes in society lead to the destruction of relatively amazing relationships.
While both games follow multiple characters with a very nice ensemble feel, each has a slightly more main character; Hyun-ae in the first game and Mute in the second game. However, put together it’s almost like the Star Wars Trilogy and then prequels. Mute, like Darth Vader, is a jerk the first time you meet her. After seeing how she ended up that way, you have a completely different understanding of the character. Although, unlike Star Wars, Hate Plus does not suck.
I played the game as Mute and ended up with her committing suicide over how she betrayed her lieutenant. I haven’t yet had time to play the harem game so I don’t know what the effect of having both Hyun-ae and Mute in the computer will be, but I’m excited to see if I learn new information.
Both of these games together are so amazing they may as well be Christine Love’s magnum opus. But, sadly, she’s only making one more game in this style. I respect her desire to branch out and create other types of games, but I am sad that I will only get to play one more of her amazing narratives.
Poker Night 2 (8 hrs) – I find Poker Night 2 to be a bit harder than the original. Not sure if they upped the AI or changed anything about it, but I find it a lot harder to win Texas Hold ‘Em in PN2. Luckily, this game also includes Omaha Hold ‘Em and I have been doing a lot better with that game. While I enjoy Samson, I find the Banter to be a little lacking compared to the original. I think the developers did a better job of defining the player’s relationships with each other in the previous game and that led to somewhat better banter. Still, it’s fun to play Poker without worrying about real money and it’s a lot of fun so I’ll probably put some more time into the game later in the year.
Civilization 5 (4 hrs) – Our online games continue. The game pictured above is a considerably younger game, but it’s pretty interesting that I’ve only had to worry about barbarians while the other game has me surrounded on all sides by enemies.
Poker Night at the Inventory (2 hrs) – I finished the game by getting everyone’s collectible. May or may not play again for the rest of the achievements. Probably not….
Cities in Motion 2 (45 min) – This game should have been perfect for me. Ever since Sim City 3 I’ve wanted my cities to progress in size so I could get access to more advanced transportation. A lot of my Sim City 4 cities are filled with every available method of transportation – monorails, subways, highways, etc. And I did enjoy being able to create bus stops in Cities XL. But the game is complex to a fault. Even during the tutorial I found it hard to complete a bus route and figure out how to time things so that patrons wouldn’t be upset but also not lose a ton of money. I MAY give this game another chance, but I have so many more games I haven’t even started yet.
Oil Rush (30 min) – I played a little of this game just to see what it was. (It was part of some humble bundle I’d purchased) It’s a pretty cinematically awesome RTS. Seeing what they’ve done here with camera angles and music (almost like watching a movie I control) makes me wish Blizzard would take a look at this and do another Warcraft (not World of Warcraft). Or if Westwood were still around, this is probably what Command and Conquer would look like.
To the Moon Holiday DLC (30 min): We learn that there are some in that world who are against what the main characters do. Overall, it was quite a tease, but still interesting to gain more insight into the world of To the Moon.
Team Fortress 2 (15 min) – Just jumped in for a quick game.
Civilization 5 (5 hours): Still haven’t caught up on the blog posts. Still entirely consists of games with Dan and Dave. Dan gifted me the latest expansion pack during the Winter Steam Sale, so I may fire up a solo game. Time will tell – I still have a ton of indie games from Humble Bundles and even games Dan gave me for my birthday last year like LA Noire.
Little Inferno (2 hours): I got this game as part of a Humble Indie Bundle. I was looking to play some games for which I had the soundtracks from the Humble Bundle sales. I prefer to play the games before listening to the soundtracks to keep from having the game spoiled by track titles and also to experience music the first time as it was meant to be experienced – as part of the game. I don’t remember which game I actually wanted from the bundle, but it wasn’t this one. However, this one quickly found itself becoming a contender for best game I played in 2013.
Visually, it became almost immediately apparent that this game was developed by someone connected to World of Goo. (Another indie favorite of mine) As I learned more about the world of this game, it became apparent that it had similar themes to explore. Both World of Goo and Little Inferno are big on slowly unfolding an understanding of the world that the protagonists just haven’t put together before. The Goo Balls didn’t know what was happening to them and both the player and his/her neighbor in Little Inferno are in the dark, ironically. Both games are also commentaries on the excesses of Corporations. Little Inferno expands this to include the ridiculous terms of service and other walls put up by corporations to protect themselves – even if they are creating an inherently dangerous product. Less subtle is the commentary on rampant consumerism and disposable items because you buy items simply to burn them in your furnace. (eg asking people to buy a new iPhone every year and throw the old one away) It also comments a bit on Global Climate Change with a bit of corporate-induced naivete of how the Little Inferno is contributing, if not the precipitating event. Oh, and there’s also commentary on the Free to Play gaming model as you have to wait for items to be delivered and you can “pay” with stamps to get them to arrive sooner. All this from a game in which you’re burning stuff in a furnace.
However, my favorite part of the game was the fact that it asks you to make combos by burning more than one thing at once and you have to suss out what to burn based on puns. Here are a few screenshots illustrating the puns:
I finished the game the following day, in January. The game has a pretty interesting ending – an epilogue that took me by surprise and is completely different than the game that proceeded it. I can’t imagine this game costs more than $10 full price. I think it’s worth it, especially if you can get it at any kind of a discount. Even at full price you’re getting twice as much entertainment as the average movie for the price of a movie ticket.
Poker Night at the Inventory (1 hour): I never would have bought this game on its own because I know nothing about poker. But I bought a Telltale games Humble Indie Bundle and so there it was when I needed to kill some time while waiting for my Linux computer to upgrade to the latest version of Fedora. I wanted to play something new, but something that wasn’t narrative-based so I went with this game. In an unprecedented move for me, I ended up with 7 achievement s on the first playthrough. I also won Strongbad and Heavy’s non-money bets – weird glasses and Heavy’s gun. I’d seen my brother, Dan, play the sequel, so I had an idea how the game was going to go. Maybe it’s my setting – middle chattiness setting – but I felt like the sequel was both chattier and less likely to repeat. I only play for an hour the first night, but I was already hearing repeats of bits. Also interesting, (and, again, it may be my settings) for the most part they only spoke between hands, not while playing; unless I took too long to make a move. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the bits. I especially liked Heavy calling Strongbad “Little Heavy”. I was sad, however, that there was no Patrick Warburton. He is my favorite modern voice actor and he’s in the sequel.
On the plus side, I did learn how to play Texas Hold ‘Em. It’s actually a pretty interesting variant since everyone gets to use the center pot to make their hands. What I don’t yet know (but I’m sure the Internet could help with in a jiffy) are the different types of winning hands. It’s been described to me a bunch of times with regular poker, but it’s one of those things that never sticks in my head. So I mostly played based on making pairs and triples (which I don’t even think is a thing). Since you start out with only two cards of your hand (rather than the entire hand in regular poker, as I understand it), so far my strategy has involved staying in if I had a high card and folding if I only have low cards. There are some modifications like if no one raises before we see the first bunch of cards then I usually stay in to see what happens. So far it worked well enough. On my first night of playing I was the last guy standing in 2/2 rounds in Normal difficulty setting.
English Country Tune (4 minutes): Again, looking at games I had Humble Bundle sountracks to. The part of the game I played was essentially Sokoban and I suck at Sokoban, so I quit the game pretty quickly.
Civ V (<1hr): Continued to play with Dan and Dave. Again, hopefully there’ll be some updates soon.
Skullgirls (<1hr): This game is a ridiculous fighting game that doesn’t take itself too seriously when it comes to the story. It’s a return to the fun of fighting games of the 1990s. At the same time, the mechanics of gameplay are no joke – we’ve been in a fighting game renaissance for the past five years or so and this game does not ignore that. I played it during a Steam free weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. If I had the time to dedicate to a fighting game, I’d buy it in an instant. If you enjoy games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, but think they’re a bit too self-serious, this game should definitely be checked out. Also, if you’re into anime (and I think there’s a lot of overlap between these groups), there’s a lot of poking fun at tropes of both fighting games an anime.
Civilization V (8 hours) – Keep following the tags (Civ V: Lefties and Civ V: Mesa Bros ) or check out my Saturday posts (although this week I didn’t have one)
LIMBO (3 hours) – Here is my review of the game up to what I finished in September:
The order in which I play games is sometimes a little unnecessarily complicated. I’m often balancing many different variables when determining the next game to play. This time it was the fact that I wanted to listen to the LIMBO soundtrack. I’d obtained it as part of the Humble Bundle that gave me the game and because soundtracks can sometimes spoil plot elements, I didn’t want to listen to it until I’d played the game. The rest of this review will contain spoilers. The game is about 3 years old now, but if you want to play this game, go play it before you read anything about it.
Back in 2009 I spent an entire blog post discussing how Braid was a deconstruction and reconstruction of platformers, especially Super Mario Brothers. You knew to begin by moving to the right because that’s what you always do. It was a major source of the humor in Thomas was Alone. For the most part, Braid expected you to figure the world out on your own, but it would display hints in the environment to let you know that you could step on the enemies, as one example. Bastion, which I played in 2011 and 2012, similarly depends upon a familiarity with the medium combined with a reminder on the bottom right of what the controller’s buttons did. It was essential to Bastion’s narrative not to truly provide you with more than the barest of hints because the protagonist was an amnesiac following The Calamity. Between those two games I thought I had experienced the ultimate in platforming minimalism, but then I played LIMBO.
When LIMBO starts, your main character is laying on the floor in the woods of a monochromatic world. The player is given absolutely no hints about what is going on. The game is the antithesis of modern video game design. While Bastion also has your character wake up without a prologue, the narrator immediately comes in and lets you know something horrible has happened. He’s also your companion in this hostile environment. LIMBO doesn’t even give you any hints of what to do. Like Braid it’s depending on your understanding that characters in video games primarily progress to the right. A tap on the arrow key prompts my character to get up. Again, unlike every modern game (and every Final Fantasy game going back AT LEAST to 6), the game does not use the first few minutes as a tutorial. The game leaves you with a sense of loneliness and tells you NOTHING.
It is appropriate that the game wishes you to feel despair as your character seemingly does. This is a dark world, both visually and metaphorically. The audio production is dark. But the first time you realize something horrible is going on here is when walking to the right you suddenly walk into a bear trap and your character is horribly torn apart. THIS is how the game communicates to you; by killing you. Over and over again, the game teaches you new mechanics and techniques through death. You overcome that obstacle and later come to a tree that needs to be pushed over so you can cross some water. You push it and it squishes you. Try again, this time running right away.
In addition to subjecting your character to many horrible, horrible deaths, the game also has even more darkness within. The first ¼ to ⅓ of the game takes place in the woods and your biggest nemesis during that section of the game is an enormous spider. The first time you meet the spider, you only see its legs and it’s not 100% certain what it is you’re up against. If you get too close it stabs you. You need to set bear traps to destroy its legs. However, when you next meet it (or, more likely, another spider), it wraps you up in a silk cocoon as if to come back and eat you later. When you escape you have to bounce around the world while wrapped up in the silk cocoon. It is definitely some horror imagery.
Even then the game’s darkness can still descend. I have nothing to back me up, but the protagonist appears to be a kid, maybe an early teen. Later you meet up with some people who appear to be adults. And all they do is try to kill you. They drop bear traps at you and do all sorts of other things, including chasing you with blow darts, to try and kill you. And all around you are other kids who are dead (and one trapped in a box) and it seems pretty apparent these adults are the reason. At one point you even need to float on some bodies to cross a river. (I did like the callback to the spider section where one of the grownups was moving an obviously mechanical spider leg in an attempt to scare you away).
When it became apparent that these guys were trying to kill me and it wasn’t just a misunderstanding and they had killed other kids like me, I started trying to puzzle the world together. After all, at first it seemed they’d just set up traps to keep out the giant spiders. When I saw it was aimed at me, I became to notice something. I had white (possibly glowing?) eyes. None of those in opposition to me had these white eyes. Additionally, the world has some white, gooey brain parasites that control your body (like the mind control fungus that infects ants and a similar ones affects mice!) and make you walk in a straight line until you come into contact with sunlight. So I am wondering if the reveal at the end of the game is going to be that I am in fact an agent of destruction and that by winning the game I have doomed humanity or something.
Eventually the game goes from the forest to a city area. The protagonist ends up in the bowels of a factory of some sort, but it appears to be abandoned and filling with water. I’m not sure what has happened to the world or if it has anything to do with the fact that the game is called LIMBO and the Biblical associations that has. But at this point I’ve come to realize that perhaps my initial hypothesis is right. These brain slugs have possibly destroyed humanity and maybe the people in the forest are all that’s left of humanity and that’s why they try so hard to keep me out of the village.
Puzzle Agent (2 hours) – This game had some really interesting plot twists near the end. I am proud of the face that I didn’t need to use a FAQ for the game, just exhausted my hints on a few puzzles. The end of my arc in Scoggins where the guy was taken by Gnomes was very strange. I was left a little confused about what’d actually happened. Had I helped or hurt him? I did like that while some of the people I initially felt were villains did sometimes end up acting to frustrated my progress, they weren’t behind the murder at the plant (there wasn’t actually a murder) and some of the people I thought would be sympathetic ended up being antagonistic. Still, it was a lot of fun and I look forward to Puzzle Agent 2.
Back to the Future: The Game (<1 hour) – I fixed an error that had been causing the NAS not to work correctly and therefore made watching movies on XBMC impossible. We celebrated by rewatching the entire Back to the Future Trilogy a little at a time over the course of a week. So when I went to Steam after finishing Puzzle Agent to see what game I should play next, I decided to go with the Back to the Future adventure game from a few years ago. I figured I’d be in the best position to enjoy it if the reference material was fresh in my brain.
The first 10 minutes of the game appeared to be an attempt to cram in as many trilogy references as possible. I had a lot of fun during the initial dream sequence in trying to ensure the dream was accurate to what happened in the movie. At the time I didn’t know it was a dream, so I thought it was interesting that there were other choices for Marty’s dialog. Having just seen it and having seen it at least 5 times from beginning to end (and dozens of times for varying lengths on cable throughout my life), it wasn’t too hard to match things up.
I really haven’t played that far into the episode. After starting up things got crazy at home and then, for some reason, I really wanted to play LIMBO. So all I know so far is that Doc is missing and has been missing long enough that his garage and research materials are being auctioned off. It also has to take place after the trilogy because Biff is scared of George and George is confident. Well, technically it can take place after the first movie, but not between the second and third because of how intertwined those movies are. However, I’m pretty sure I came across some stuff in the garage that points to the second and third movies having happened.
I was excited to play the game after having played The Walking Dead, but it’s pretty clear that when they made Back to the Future they were still in an old-school adventure game mindset. (Having done Sam and Max and Monkey Island) I have a nostalgic place in my heart for those old adventure games, but I do like where the genre has evolved with The Walking Dead. Still, we’ll see if I can make it through all the episodes of the game.