Book learnt

I wrote a test last night that I was not at all confident about. I’d spent the last week studying madly and despite that, I still found that leading up to and throughout the duration of said test, I was genuinely worried that I would fail.

Then I ended up getting a 90.

I suppose I owe my brain a thank you for not screwing up this time. But I’m going to wait and see how the mid-term goes next week before I do any celebrating.

My Organ Harvesting Diary: Day One

Most of the time if I’m writing a review for a game, I will start it while I’m in the middle of the game, and then change the review text as I go along. Sometimes the things that I write change quite a lot over that time, sometimes my initial impressions are spot-on and nothing changes at all.

This time, I’d like to keep more of a play diary. Our game in question is Forget Me Not: My Organic Garden. This was a random recommendation from Steam, which I clicked on and decided to put on my wish list, because it was a clicker game that looked a little unhinged. Not long after, it went on sale for a paltry $3.50, so I snapped that puppy up and jumped right in.

Now that the groundwork is laid, let’s dig into the game itself. Hopefully it’s interesting enough to justify using this format.

FMN:MOG opens with a bunch of dialogue, mostly out-of-context stuff that will ostensibly make more sense later. Then you’re given your role: as the assistant in a plant nursery. Only, the plants here grow magical organs instead of fruit or flowers. So far, we’ve learned that putting one of these organs in an inanimate object will give it life, but not a real soul, and that the organs come in differing qualities. Most of the customers have been various degrees of shady, and even your boss seems to have a questionable background.

It’s important to note that this game is from a Japanese developer (CAVYHOUSE), and it’s got an anime feel to it that isn’t overpowering, but is definitely perceptible. From the not-quite-perfect localization to the fact that your character addresses her boss as “master,” it’s clear that this isn’t originally from the Western world. I feel like I was going somewhere with this paragraph, but I’ve completely forgotten where that was. Oh well.

Gameplay starts off simple: water the tree, and it will grow kidneys. Pluck the kidneys and ship them to earn cash. The tree stores so much water, which is used up as kidneys grow, and the watering can will slowly refill over time. You can level up the tree by plucking kidneys, and the watering can levels up as you use it. Eventually you’re given a store, but the only item I can buy so far is a frog. Frogs speed up your watering can’s refill speed, but they lack focus and you’ll have to click on them every few seconds to get them back to work.

In this first session, I’ve completed Chapter One, which ended on a scene of the nursery owner (Irene) and a mysterious friend talking about going on a trip together, leaving me to run the plant nursery alone. I have a nagging feeling that my character may have been brought to life by one of the same magical organs that she is harvesting. Chapter Two also gave me a second tree that blooms hearts, so now there’s twice as much maintenance to take care of and my watering can does not fill nearly fast enough to keep up, even with three frogs buffing it.

So far, it’s been just a matter of juggling fruits, water, and frogs until the door lights up and you’re shown the next story scene. As your things level up and you collect kidneys, you’ll complete missions that give you more cash. It’s a slightly more complicated cycle than most clickers I’ve played, and most other clickers would have given you an option to automate the process by now (which turns them from clicker game into idle game). I suppose I’ll just have to keep playing to see how both the story and gameplay unfold.

A problem from the first world

October is the worst time to be taking a course. It’s the only time of the year where doing season-related stuff really feels important, but all my free time is being sapped up by class and assignments and studying. That time is supposed to be wasted on spooky video games and cheesy horror movies that I’ve already seen seventeen times!

Jeez!

(Blogging is also falling way behind, I have like 46 draft posts that I have no time to finish.)

Last Month in Movies – September 2017

I watch horror movies all year long, but it’s only once September rolls around that they really begin to feel on point, you know? So that’s basically how I spent my movie-watching time in September. No room for sci-fi or action or whatever else here!

Los Parecidos – This is a Mexican horror film from 2016 (in English, The Similars), about eight people trapped in a bus station during a wicked crazy rainstorm. The first thing that you notice when you start watching is that it doesn’t look at all like a 2016 movie. It’s got a beautiful old-timey filer and style that make it seem almost like it did actually come out of the 1960’s. That’s a really good way to secure my interest right off the bat.

The plot revolves around said group of strangers, trapped, and as per genre, becoming more and more paranoid and distrusting of each other as time goes on and strange events start to happen. The crux of the strange events being that they begin suffering seizures one-by-one, followed by a facial transformation that results in each person having the same head. Oh and also, they aren’t trapped in the bus station because of the rain, but rather because some invisible force is not permitting them to leave.

While it is a slow-burn kind of mystery, it’s done really well. I was engaged throughout the whole film, constantly unsure (but with some close guesses) as to what was happening. It really comes to a head about halfway through, when the big twist is revealed, and that’s when the cast beings dying off one at a time. What was most notable is that Los Parecidos does a really excellent job of feeling exactly like a really long episode of The Twilight Zone. It’s got a perfectly spooky vibe, and of course a little smattering of the supernatural. Needless to say, I quite liked it. An excellent way to start the (extended) Halloween season.

After – Next up, we look to another random suggestion from Netflix that actually had a moderately interesting summary. It’s the story of two strangers, trapped in an abandoned version of their town, with a black mist quickly closing in on them from all sides.

Did you just say “okay, so they’re dead/in purgatory or whatever”? If you did, you’re almost right. The film opens with a bus crash, the only passengers being our main characters, Ana and Freddy. It’s not long before we get the “big reveal” that they’re both in comas, and the black fog represents the time they have left before Ana is taken off life support. So the plot then becomes about how they try to wake themselves up, rather than the coma being a bad twist ending, and I much prefer it this way.

So you might then wonder, how did these strangers end up in the same coma? That’s never really explained. It makes absolutely no sense, and they do actually address it, but end up just handwaving it away. Basically it’s just for the sake of the story, since we end up being show that the two protagonists have a shared event in their past that neither of them know about. Also it’s an opportunity to sort of blend their backstories together to make something a little richer than if it had been a single person’s dreamscape.

Overall, I’d say it was decent. A little plodding at times. There was a cool GCI monster, but it was sort of unnecessary, the guardian of a key that seemed redundant in light of the ever-present ticking clock. One nice twist is that the film constantly flip-flops who they want you to think the “hero” is going to be, and it ends up being Ana who really saves the day. So there’s that little dash of feminism in there if that’s your jam. I don’t know if I can recommend it in earnest, but it’s certainly in the upper echelon of “movies on Netflix that nobody has ever heard of.”

Spider-Man Homecoming – To set the scene: I am not a big fan of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy. I liked them at the time, but in retrospect I find them nigh unwatchable. Mainly I just hate the majority of the cast. Additionally, unlike most people, I really like the Amazing Spider-Man movies. I have tried to, but cannot, understand why they get so much hate.

Homecoming, though? It’s perfect. Or at least as close as you get to perfect. It’s placed perfectly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe by sitting it on the fringes of the larger story; tying into the greater lore, but but not reliant on it. I mean, sort of reliant. The ties to the MCU give Homecoming a richer background and context, but this movie’s charm is all in the character development and the action.

While there is a typical super-hero tale here, the thing they really want to do is give you a Spider-Man origin story without telling the same old Spider-Man origin story. It’s not the story of Peter Parker getting his powers, it’s the story of him truly becoming Spider-Man. Following Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker has a bit of a swelled head from being recruited by Tony Stark to battle with the Avengers. He gets in too deep, driven by his all-consuming desire to prove that he’s Avengers material, and causes more harm than good, leaving Iron Man forced to step in to clean up Spidey’s mess and take away the fancy-pants suit. Left with nothing but his old DIY getup, Peter has to figure out how to be a superhero and save the day without the benefits of the super-suit.

The line “if you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it” truly epitomizes the appeal of the film. That story of growth and learning to find your inner strength was what really made it click for me. Plus, I really like this set of actors! I’ll never get over the loss of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, but Tom Holland is adorable and we all love RDJ’s Tony Stark. Michael Keaton, of course, was so friggin’ good, and I can’t help but hope that Jacob Batalon gets to come back if there is another MCU Spidey film. And Marisa Tomei? Yes, please.

IT (2017) – Yes, I have seen the 1990 mini-series with Tim Curry. No, I will not be directly comparing the two, because it’s been far too long since I’ve watched the older one and I cannot remember any more than the plot. Also I’ve never read the book, so there’s that.

Simply put, I think that IT was really great. Certainly the best thing to come out of the 2017 Stephen King adaptation craze. If you aren’t familiar with the plot, it’s about a group of outcast kids who are being hunted by a nightmarish clown from the sewers. Spoiler: said clown is actually an ancient, inter-dimensional evil that feeds on fear. And, uh, the flesh of children, I suppose. Most of that is barely touched on in this film, though, so it’s not the biggest spoiler.

IT wasn’t exactly scary, despite being an actual horror movie. I mean, I can certainly see how Pennywise the Dancing Clown is a terrifying concept, but this film banks a lot on jumpscares. And jumpscares almost never feel earned in movies. On the other hand, the creature effects were amazing. The way Pennywise’s mouth unfolds to reveal layers and layers of teeth was endlessly fascinating to me, and I almost wish they hadn’t pulled that trick out so many times,because by the end of the movie you almost end up being used to it. It’s always more fun when they keep things like that to a bare minimum.

Do I recommend IT? Yeah, absolutely! I already said that I think it’s really great. What else do you need? Maybe there isn’t quite enough time to give a proper backstory to each of the seventy protagonists, but the ones that are meant to be in the spotlight shine ever so brightly. All the kids do a really great job, too. And we all know that I have a soft spot for stories about a group of kids going on a surreal adventure (see The Goonies, Super 8, Stranger Things, etc…). The one thing that surprised me was the ending reveal that this is only IT: Chapter One. In retrospect, that was dumb of me, because Hollywood would never miss the opportunity for an easy sequel. Also there’s no way they could have ever fit the entire story into one film while keeping it cohesive and under three hours long.

Gerald’s Game – A Netflix production, which much to my surprise, is based on a Stephan King novel. I… that was completely by accident. I didn’t mean to watch three Stephen King adaptations (I also watch the Netflix series based on The Mist) all in one month. But I think that the entertainment world must have conspired for them all to release within 30 days of each other.

Anyway, this movie was far inferior to IT. Gerald’s Game is about a couple who go out to a secluded vacation hone to try to save their marriage. But when the husband, Gerald, has a heart attack and dies after handcuffing the wife, Jessie, to the bed, things begin to spiral out of control. Jessie begins hallucinating, having conversations with a more assertive version of herself and the “ghost” of Gerald. Also a stray dog wanders in and begins eating Gerald’s body.

This film is 70 minutes of boring, 5 minutes of horrible agony that I could not watch and almost made me barf when Jessie comes up with a plan to escape the handcuffs, and then 25 minutes of conclusion. Said conclusion also includes a completely irrelevant subplot involving a grave robber/necrophiliac/serial killer who had routinely visited Jessie during her ordeal, but she thought was just a hallucination of Death. I am not happy that I wasted so much of my time with this one, and cannot possibly recommend it to anyone.

Curse of Chucky – This is not new. See previous impressions here. The only thing I need to add to that review is that I was very annoyed by how two characters died instantaneously when they had either a) an eye gouged out or b) a jaw hacked clean off. Those injuries would not kill someone on the spot! Maybe the eye gouge if it went deep enough and at the right angle to skewer the brain. Maaaaybe.

Mercy – Oh my f**k. Another secret Stephen King adaptation. Netflix really needs to add that to their summaries. The differences are that this film was from 2014, and it lands somewhere in between IT and Gerald’s Game in terms of quality. Also, it’s very loosely based on a short story.

This story is about two boys and their mom, who move out to their grandmother’s house to take care of her as she dies. Of course, as to movie goes along, weird things start happening and eventually the boys manage to discover that their grandma has made a pact with some evil force. This is confirmed by a priest, who states the the woman had given away all of her goodness to gain everything she ever wanted. At the climax of the film, there’s an epic showdown between George, the main character, and Grandma’s possessed corpse.

To be honest, I have absolutely no recollection of how it ended. I can tell you pretty much exactly what happened throughout the film up until maybe the last five minutes. Then my mind blanks. I think that’s probably a sign that I was disappointed in the ending, which is too bad because the rest of the movie was alright. It didn’t exactly have me on the edge of my seat, but at least I wasn’t proclaiming “I am so friggin’ bored!” to nobody, as I did while watching Gerald’s Game.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – September 2017

The beginning of the month was a time of plenty, with a vacation week dedicated solely to doing whatever the heck I wanted. And also getting a crown on one of my teeth, but that’s besides the point. Then the dark times came, as I went back to school, and my video game time was subsequently supplanted by studying.

~ Game Over ~

Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS) – It’s been 13 years since the last 2D Metroid. The wait was so worth it. The only thing that could make it better is if it were a Switch game.

Chicken Wiggle (3DS) – Completed all the packed-in levels, but as long as Atooi and Talk Nintendo keep making new ones, I’ll keep on playin’ ’em!

Illusion of Gaia (SNES) – I’ve been wanting to replay this for what feels like forever, and finally doing so was my birthday present to myself. A good use of my week off.

Piczle Lines DX (Switch) – For the record, I only beat the Story Mode’s 100 puzzles. There are still another 200+ puzzles to solve in the Puzzle Mode. Hooray!

PAN-PAN (Switch) – A cute little adventure game that took well under two hours to finish up. I’ve come to really enjoy short games like this, and PAN-PAN was very fun and rewarding to solve.

No More Heroes (Wii) – A replay inspired by the recent announcement of the third NMH game.

~ Now Playing ~

Hollow Knight (PC) – Not only is it a sterling example of what a Metroidvania should be, but the difficulty level is perfect. Very tough, lots of dying, but no challenge ever feels unfair.

Death Road to Canada (PC) – This weird zombie road trip roguelike came out of nowhere, and holy cow is it ever a blast to play. I’m not convinced that it can actually be won, though.

Final Fantasy XV (PS4) – At this rate, I’ll never finish it. There are too many sidequests. Too many hunts. A too-big Adamantoise. Too many got-danged fish to catch.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch) – It’s basically a light-hearted XCOM, so yeah, it’s really good. What’s much more surprising is that it’s sort of making me like the Rabbids.

Monster Hunter Generations (3DS) – Say what you will about the MonHun grinding cycle, I find it ever so satisfying and it’s still fun after seven billion hours over sixteen hundred games.

Monster Hunter Stories (3DS) – I think it says a lot that I invested upwards of ten hours in the demo, and still didn’t finish it before the full game was released.

Splatoon 2 (Switch) – I basically just played during the Splatfest, and it was nice to see my team win again after the crushing defeat of Ketchup by Mayo. Friggin’ mayo. So gross…

Pokémon Puzzle Challenge (GBC) – How do you make me like Puzzle League even more? Throw a Pokémon skin on there. Bonus points for being Johto-themed!

Picross NP Vol. 1 (SNES) – I wasn’t seriously playing it. Just booted it up to knock out a few puzzles. As much as I love this collection, the controls are just too… slippery?

Magikarp Jump (iOS) – Might be time to stop including this and Greasy Money on the monthend list. I mean, I play Pokémon Shuffle every day, too, and it hasn’t been mentioned in ages.

TPB: Greasy Money (iOS) – Back-to-back event weekends mean I’m even more invested in this app than usual. But I’m still not going to give them any more of my money.

Rock Band (360) – Played a bunch one weekend; my left hand remained cramped for days after.

King of the Monsters (SNES) – I played exactly one round, and then quit because it was dumb. But it sure did look appealing in Nintendo Power lo those many years ago.

Long time listener, first time writer

Anyone who knows me even just a little should be aware that I’m not really a “participation” kind of guy. In most cases, I much prefer to sit on the sidelines and just watch other people do their thing. Observation makes much more sense to me. I’m told that this is a perfectly normal thing for introverts, and I’ve been happy to live my life in this fashion.

However, once in a while, I will feel an irrepressible urge to get up and be part of something. It’s rare, but it happens.

One of those moments came this week, when listening to the previous week’s episode of the Talk Nintendo Podcast. In it, the boys were discussing recent eShop releases, as they do, and mentioned that they were going to start accepting reader-submitted reviews of eShop games to read on air. Because two guys just can’t play every game, you know?

Normally I would just think this was a cool addition and take no action. But they just happened to mention PAN-PAN, a game that they knew nothing about and had strongly piqued my own curiosity. So I went ahead and bought the game, played through it, and after much deliberation, sent in a tiny review.

And now, my friends, you can listen to my paragraph of thoughts on PAN-PAN being read on Talk Nintendo Episode #53. I have now truly been immortalized on the internet. This is even better than the time I got name dropped on No More Whoppers. Best of all, I even got a nice little thank you email back from the boys, encouraging me to send more micro-reviews in the future. So maybe I will!

Full disclosure: one of my tweets has been read on Talk Nintendo before. But man, it was a friggin’ tweet. It means nothing.

Educator’s Creed

Normally, I just ignore all the “today’s highlights” emails that Twitter sends me. Really, I probably should find a way to turn them off. But I’m glad that I bothered to actually look through the headlines this morning, because this is really neat:

I probably still won’t buy the game, because I don’t care about the Assassin’s Creed franchise. But I really love the idea that they’re building a world that you can opt to take in and enjoy in peace. From what I’ve read, there are even going to be guided tours in-game that are narrated by actual historians and Egyptologists, so this is really going to be on the level. Plus, you get to freely run around ancient Egypt and climb around on everything, which is one of those impossible dreams of mine. Specifically, I’d just love to spend like a month exploring and studying the Great Pyramid of Giza, but it’s a protected site and normal folks are definitely not allowed regular access.

You know, maybe I will buy this game. A man can only watch The Pyramid Code so many times before he needs another source of information.

Samus Returns: The Morning After

After about a week of trying to eke out playtime here and there, I finished up my first run of Metroid: Samus Returns last night. For those who may not know, this is a complete remake of the Game Boy’s Metroid II: Return of Samus, which is generally regarded as the worst Metroid game. Metroid II was my first Metroid, and having never revisited it since (I was probably eight years old when I played it), it occupies a special, nostalgic place in my heart.

Anyway, like I said, I finished my first run of Samus Returns. I fully intend to go back for 100% completion, and then to run through at least twice more to play on the Hard and Fusion modes. For now, though, I’ve a few trace thoughts about the game that I’d like to share.

  • Samus Returns is hard as balls. I died lots and lots of times. It’s hard enough where the Hard Mode and even-harder Fusion Mode seem unnecessary. But I suppose they’re just more reason to replay the game.
  • The number one reason, of course, is that Samus Returns is friggin’ amazing. Like, it’s right up there with Super Metroid and Zero Mission.
  • There are a few things that drag it down, though. Like how some of the environmental puzzles are repeated so often that they get stale. It’s like, okay, I get it: use Spider Ball to go over the crumbling floor and grab the missile tank. I’ve only done this thirty times already.
  • The game gets slow between the point where the Spider Ball is introduced and when you finally get the Spring Ball. So much time spent tediously rolling your way around mazes…
  • There are two new major bosses: First, an excavation robot that is probably the most difficult boss in the game, who guards the Power Bombs. Secondly, the new final boss is… Ridley. Of course. Because he must be shoehorned into every Metroid game. Also he was weirdly easy after the very challenging fights against the robot and Queen Metroid.
  • In addition, all the various Metroid evolutions have been given crazy upgrades. There are 40ish of them throughout the game, and each encounter is intense enough to feel like a real boss battle. The few Omega Metroids in particular make for really great battles, and even the lesser Alphas are constantly learning new tricks to keep them interesting even after taking down roughly two dozen of them.
  • I rolled the credits for the first time with just under nine hours on the game clock. That’s a beefy Metroid! Samus didn’t even take off her helmet in my ending, so there’s clearly a lot of room for improvement.
  • And looking it up, there are a whopping nine endings, three for each difficulty mode. Looks like I’ll be playing this a lot…
  • I only got 66% of the power-ups on that first run. It’s going to be a long road to collect ’em all.
  • The stinger after the credits not-so-subtly suggests that MercurySteam would very much like to do a Metroid Fusion remake next. I would very much like that as well.
  • The final “power up” was a complete surprise to me and I love it. So good. So perfect.

Mini-Review – Illusion of Gaia

For me, there are a number of video games that I often find myself reminiscing about because something has triggered a pleasant memory that is attached to them. Most of these games are old, played in my youth, that I have never gone back to replay. One of the most prominent in my memory is Illusion of Gaia, the middle child of an SNES trilogy by Quintet. Though it’s not your typical middle child. Gaia was far better known than its older brother, Soul Blazer. And its younger sibling, Terranigma, was never formally released in North America.

Gaia’s notability is mostly in the fact that it was published by Nintendo, and as such was pushed rather heavily in Nintendo Power. Yet despite this, its siblings seem to be talked about much more often by retro game enthusiasts. Soul Blazer has been christened a hidden gem, and Terranigma’s cachet is being one of those SNES RPGs we never got, which automatically makes it more sought after in the age of the internet. And so, good ol’ Illusion of Gaia often gets forgotten these days, because it was the one of the three that wasn’t forgotten in its own time.

But I haven’t forgotten it. I mean, obviously. In fact, it’s spent a lot of time in my active thoughts in the 20+ years since I first played it. A game that left a lasting impression on my impressionable young mind. Most of this, I attribute to the fact that it was a fantasy RPG that used famous locations from the real world, and had a rather mind-blowing plot twist at the very ending. And so, since these elements were burned into Li’l Ryan’s brain, any time they come up in real life, they trigger memories of Illusion of Gaia.

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