Wherein I showed some effort

Guess what! I went and slapped a few more of those old non-WordPress articles into WordPress! Now there are more things here to read! Hooray! Exclamation points!

GameCube Demo Disc – Honestly, I wish there were more of these. I’m very much at the point in my life where hidden gems of that era interest me greatly.

Birthday Article 2003 – The first of… several. Certainly could be classified as a relic of another era, as I will never again get enough things for my birthday to write an article about.

Mario Kart: Double Dash!! – Read this and get excited for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Switch! Or at least, wish that Nintendo would bring back the two-person karts. I liked that gimmick a lot.

Holiday Viva Puffs – I had actually moved this one over back in December, but forgot to make a big stick about it. Whoops!

With these up, all articles from 2003 and 2006 onward are available on the WordPress site. Of course, they all still exist in their gaudy web 1.0 glory on the archive site. So feel free to check that out if you’re tired of the unified white-and-blue theme. Some of them have ugly background jpgs!

Is it Greasy, or Gree-hee-heeasy?

The Trailer Park Boys mobile game, Greasy Money, was released yesterday. 4/20. Of course.

I’ve put some time into it, and it’s basically just another clicker game (“waiting simulator” if you prefer), but with a little bit of added complexity. So it’s really striking all the sweet spots for me.

The one thing that I really dislike about it is that while it has a unique plot, all of the story beats after the opening cutscene are stolen wholesale from the show. Even all the jokes are just pulled straight from a list of the show’s most quotable lines. It’s really lazy. Thumbs down.

But that’s fairly minor. It’s still one of those games that worms its way into your life and only lets go once you decide to turn off notifications. Considering that, I’ll probably stick with it longer than any other mobile game ever. So maybe like a week?

Giant swans are creepy

I bought a game called The Unfinished Swan on PS4 a couple weeks ago when it was on sale for a toonie. This purchase was based on an article that I’d read about the game long ago, which I remember as being somewhat interesting. I don’t remember what the thrust of the article was, or where I even read it, but it left me with a good impression for some reason. So I gave up a coffee for a new video game.

After finishing the game, I consider it to have been a sound investment. The Unfinished Swan is a two-hour indie game with a cute little story about an orphan boy travelling through a fantasy world. It’s almost a walking simulator, but actually asks something from the player besides moving forward to the next plot point. What that task is changes throughout the course of the game, but is generally all about manipulating your environment in some fashion.

When you start off, you’re in complete white. Not a scuff or shade to show the way. Your only recourse is to bumble around in the perceived nothingness (and that actually ties into the game’s toughest trophy), or start chucking paint balls like a madman to slowly reveal your surroundings. It’s still kind of tough to make your way around, but as you go, the world starts to fill in. First with only shadows, but by the time you hit Chapter 2, there are outlines and coloured objects abound.

Said second chapter introduces the idea of flipping switches to make things move, and gimmicks that follow include following a ball of light through a pitch-dark forest and creating blocks out of thin air to build bridges across otherwise impassable pits. My favourite part, though, is when you get to command a vine that grows over every surface that you splat with a water balloon. It’s a lot of fun just to make the vine grow, and it’s compelling to find and create paths with the vine to climb along. Unfortunately, the game is tailored to be very straightforward, so there isn’t much room for creativity.

Along the way there are a couple distractions, like collectible balloons that you can use to unlock extra features. There are also little storybook panels that reveal bits and pieces of the world’s backstory. Whether this narrative is truth or just your character’s imagination is left up to interpretation, but it’s a cute and surprisingly sorrowful tale. I liked it, because it didn’t take itself too seriously and typically leaves you alone if you aren’t interested.

While there isn’t a whole lot of substance in The Unfinished Swan, it’s a charming little game that was a solid way to spend a Saturday afternoon. As I said before, it’s only a few hours from start to finish. If you really need to wring it dry, the trophies will likely double your playtime, but they’re mostly shallow busywork. I don’t know what the regular price is, and damned if I’m going to check, but it’s probably safe to say that I wouldn’t have regretted spending up to a tenner on this one. The fact that there was actual gameplay certainly helped it in that regard.

The Tale Of Eventide Island

The day before Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild were released, I had a bit of a lapse in my spoiler-avoidance. I took a good, long look at the full map of Hyrule. Though it was completely void of any marks or notes, I did see some interesting buildings and landscapes that I decided that I would prioritize in my travels. One of those places was an island off to the southeast of the mainland, quite a ways out into the ocean.

It doesn’t look so bad from far away…

During the hours of gameplay leading up to me reaching that island, I quickly learned that Link could not swim very far before running out of stamina and being warped back to the last solid ground that he’d stood on. Much, much later, I discovered that rafts were common around larger bodies of water, and many more hours after that, I found that I could use a korok leaf to generate wind to sail those rafts around. And thus, I was finally able to access Eventide Island.

Little did I know, it would become my greatest nightmare.

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Overthinking

Should I make a Switch category? I kinda want to make a Switch category. What do you think?

Nah, I don’t think I’m gonna do that. It wouldn’t be fair to all the other consoles that don’t have their own category. And I’m way too lazy to go back and tag all the archived posts accordingly.

This post probably should have been a Tweet, if I were the type to Twitter.

The Mastery of Blastery

Did you ever play Blaster Master on NES? I have. Many times, in fact. And I’ve never managed to get very far because holy gosh is it ever difficult. Like, five minutes to Game Over difficult. Because I felt compelled to do a random Wikipedia check on it before writing this, I’ve learned that there are also like seven other Blaster Master games that I haven’t played.

But none of them matter in the slightest, because today I’m talking about Blaster Master Zero, the new reboot/remake/whatever for Switch (and 3DS, I suppose). I both started and finished Zero last weekend, so obviously it’s got a somewhat gentler difficulty curve than the game that it’s inspired by. Which is to say, it’s actually really easy up until the last boss. Well, the fake last boss. But I should probably circle back around and get to explaining that a little later.

If you don’t know Blaster Master, it’s a sort of Metroidvania, where you boot around an “open” side-scrolling world in a tank. Well, SOPHIA III is tank-esqe, anyway. It’s got wheels instead of treads and also it jumps like a danged kangaroo, so I feel weird calling her a tank. Oh, and also the world is “open” because you’re free to explore at you own leisure, but progress is actually very linear and I’m not nearly smart enough to have discovered any sequence breaks. So yeah, it really is just like a Metroidvania! Also the pause screen looks suspiciously like that of Super Metroid.

What sets it apart is that the pilot, Jason, can hop out of SOPHIA at any time and run around on his own. Sometimes you have to do this to solve puzzles, but mostly you want to disembark to enter caves. The caves are very different from the rest of the world, as the view switches to top-down and the game starts to play more like an arcade shooter. Your job here is to weave Jason around, shooting enemies and avoiding harmful obstacles, ultimately tracking down and defeating a boss monster to earn a power-up for SOPHIA. Said power-up is often the key to progressing through the larger world, and so the cycle continues.

Jason’s other big schtick is his really weird gun. You can collect power-ups to buff it up and completely change how it fires. The catch there is that getting hit will knock you back down a power level, which is annoying as all heck. Luckily, the second level gun can pierce walls, and very few enemies can respond in kind. This makes picking off enemies like shooting fish in a barrel, allowing you to easily power up your gun to the max, and the strongest version is a wave beam that has massive range and still pierces through walls. Also you pick up a shield early on that preserves your power level for one hit and regenerates after a couple seconds. So once you get in the groove, it’s really easy to not lose your gun levels.

Blaster Master Zero takes place over eight areas of the usual video game cliché environments; the forest, sewers, ice world, lava world, etc, etc. It all culminates in the only hard boss fight in the game, which is mostly only hard because the guy has a second phase that can fill the screen with projectiles and moves faster than Jason. I beat him after a couple tries, and sadly learned that I had gotten the bad ending. Ostensibly, there is at least a True Final Boss and maybe another actually-final final area. I have no idea how to earn said good ending (or any endings that may lie between), but I have a feeling it involves 100% item collection, as there isn’t a whole lot else to the game. The only optional collectibles are the life bar extensions and area maps. And maybe the gigantic frig-off laser cannon that I can’t imagine has any practical uses. It takes like fifteen seconds to charge and will get interrupted by a light breeze. It’s almost certainly there just because the animators wanted to do a gigantic frig-off laser blast.

To make this a bog-standard game review, I suppose I ought to touch on the production values as well. BMZ is developed by Inti Creates, so it’s got a delightful pixelly aesthetic, which people tend to call 8-bit, but it’s really closer to 16-bit, especially where some of the special effects are involved. You know, explosions, giant laser beams, all that good stuff. It’s not outstanding in any way, but everything looks nice. Of note is that the caves zoom in the camera, and as such, the “indoor” graphics are much bigger and considerably more cartoony. Jason’s noggin ends up being like half his total body mass, whereas it’s perfectly normally-proportioned in the realm of cutscenes. There’s a bit of dissonance there, but it stops being jarring very quickly. The music is great for bopping along to as you’re driving around blasting bugs and robots and floating zombie heads. However, it’s not at all memorable and I can’t recall even the title track, which I sat on the title screen to listen to on more than one occasion.

In conclusion, it is my semi-professional opinion that Blaster Master Zero is a very sweet game. It skews a little bit too easy, but that can be forgiven, because it’s fun to win. I very much look forward to diving back in to finish up the good ending, and to maybe unlock whatever that ????? is under the Extras section of the main menu. Should you buy it? Heck yeah! At roughly 12 Canada Dollars, BMZ is an absolute steal! It’s a great game to have on your Switch, and if you aren’t rocking one of those beauties quite yet, it’s on the dependable ol’ 3DS as well. So you’ve got options. But not many, because it’s currently exclusive to said Nintendo machines. Will it end up on other gaming things? Who knows!? On one hand, I think that would be nice because it’ll make this great game accessible to even more people, but on the other hand, I kind of hope it stays Nintendo exclusive because schadenfreude.

Wherein there are tarts that pop

I haven’t really mentioned these on the ol’ blog lately… But I’ve been uploading the “leftover” Pop-Tarts Review videos recently. They’re going up alternating weeks with TE articles, so that every weekend (or Monday sometimes) I’m adding “content” to the internet. It won’t last long, but I suppose that a short run of consistent content is better than nothing.

So here, watch this review that I phoned in because Kellogg’s phoned in the tarts in question.

Oh, hey, the next one is gonna be #50! It’s too bad I didn’t think that far ahead and plan… anything for it. Whoops!

There’s another new-ish one from a couple weeks ago, too. Uh… Pink Lemonade. You’re a smart cookie. Go on and look it up for yourself if you’re interested. I refuse to embed two videos in one post.

From the desk of Complainey Complainerson

One of those things I really dislike about WordPress is that I can’t mouse-over the old post titles that are song lyrics to see what song they’re from. It’s probably a thing I could implement, but I don’t care that much.

I’ve probably complained about this before. But… whiners gotta whine.

On rapping paper dogs

I was browsing the PSN store about a month back, to see if anything good was on sale. When clicking into the PS+ deals, I noticed that I was able to pre-order a remastered version of PaRappa the Rapper at a discount. I didn’t really stop to think about it, and immediately locked in that preorder. I love the soundtracks to PaRappa and its spin-off, Um Jammer Lammy. Why would I pass up the opportunity to get an HD-quality version of the game?

The game was released this past Tuesday and the answer to that question, my friends, is that PaRappa the Rapper Remastered is almost unfairly difficult, and as a result, is not all that fun to play. It’s a rhythm game that arbitrarily rewards or punishes you for matching the rhythm, despite that ostensibly being the goal of the game. This was the same thing that kept me from ever really getting into the original release.

Now, if you are completely unfamiliar with this game or perhaps the genre at large, it’s actually very simple. Each stage is a song, wherein a character will rap a phrase, and then you have to rap it back at them. This is accomplished by pressing corresponding buttons that appear on a bar at the top of the screen as PaRappa’s icon passes over them. Typically, you want to hit the button right on time, but every other rhythm game will allow a little wiggle room in either direction. You know, because rewarding only perfect timing would be more maddening than fun.

PaRappa… doesn’t follow these rules at all. I spent maybe and hour and a half with the game, and I still have no idea when it actually wants me to press the buttons. It seems completely arbitrary, as even when I hit every note with (as far as I can tell) perfect timing, there’s a 50% chance that the game will see fit to detract points from my score. Sometimes it seems like the game would prefer me to hit the button a little bit ahead of the cue, sometimes a little bit after. This appears to change not even with every song, but with every phrase. It’s literally impossible to suss out what the game really wants from me. At this point, I think it might be actively trying to infuriate me.

Compounding the problem is that PaRappa’s vocals will accompany each button press, and they will totally throw you off. If your timing is imprecise, his raps will be stuttery and incomplete. If your timing is perfect, they’ll flow like a river. But in my experience, the better his rhymes flowed, the more likely the game was to penalize me. For whatever reason, the jumpy stutter-rapping scored better more often. There are options to “Feel the Beat” (enable rumble) and “See the Beat” (I noticed no difference), but they didn’t help at all in figuring out the correct timing.

It’s all really too bad, as the rest of the game is wonderful. The weird paper style of the visuals is a little dated, but I still think the game looks rad. The story that goes along with those visuals is a little formulaic, but it’s cute and usually pretty funny. And like I said before, the music is excellent. These are tracks that I often listen to independent of the game.

If PaRappa was a little more forgiving, I could see myself going back to it to play for trophies and maybe even just for fun, but as it stands, I almost feel like I’ve been swindled on this one. Admittedly, I should have known better, because I’ve been frustrated with PaRappa before on more than one occasion, and I’ve spent countless hours trying to get in the groove with Um Jammer Lammy, which has all the exact same issues. I suppose that I was just hoping that the HD remaster would have a softer touch.

The worst thing about it all, though? I’ll absolutely buy Um Jammer Lammy Remastered as well, if it should ever happen.

Mistakes have been made

You remember when I bought those gross peanut butter Clif bars that didn’t taste at all like peanut butter, and then pledged to but Larabars instead? Well, I did that.

I foolishly tried the peanut butter Larabars, though. While they do taste of peanut butter, the only other ingredient is dates. And peanuts, I guess. The point though, is that peanut butter and dates are not a good combo. Yuck. Better than the Clif bar, but not by a lot.

The good news is that the apple-flavoured Larabars are really delicious! Good thing I bought both!