Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – November 2016

Hey. November. It’s cold outside now. All the more reason to stay inside all the time and play video games. Except when it’s not and I go outside to play Pokémon Go.

~ Game Over ~

Pokémon Sun (3DS) – FINALLY. I haven’t been so excited about a game since Smash 4. And you know I’m not kidding because I tore through that sucker in only a week. Also, have you seen Crabominable yet??

crabominable

Heaven Island (PC) – A VR walking simulator MMO. Note that I do not own a VR device, so half the experience was lost on me. But I still wandered around until I’d picked up enough apples and seashells to claim all of the “achievements.”

You Deserve (PC) – I think I would have liked this horror adventure a little more if it had run a little bit smoother. It pushed my PC a little harder than it really needed to. Oh, and also it’s got jumpscares placed in seemingly random spots just for the sake of cheap jumpscares. I put up lots more words about it yesterday.

Wario Land 2 (GBC) – I was itching for a replay, so that’s what I did. Considered taking the secret route to complete the game in five levels, but opted to go for good ol’ 100% in the end. I like Wario Land 2 that much.

Paper Mario: Color Splash (WiiU) – Quite a divisive game, though personally, I think it’s incredible. It’s not really much like the N64 or GameCube Paper Marios, but at the same time, it kind of is? Also, it’s super pretty and maybe the funniest game I’ve ever played. If I have one complaint to lobby against it, it’s that they spelled “colour” wrong.

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What do I deserve?

youdeserve

In the super-spoopy Halloween bundle that I bought from IndieGala, I received a game titled simply You Deserve. I knew nothing about it, save that it was horror-themed in some way, and that the thumbnail they used to advertise it caught my eye. Maybe this isn’t the best way to choose what to play, but the way I see it, most indie games will either only last two hours at most or I’ll get bored and quit before then. Not an especially big commitment.

Let us start at the very start: the title. You Deserve. It’s not a good title. But after playing the game, it makes a little more sense. Not from the context of the plot of the game, but rather from the context of I am 99% sure that English is not the developers’ first or maybe even second language.

Although reading that sentence back, it may sound like English isn’t my first language, either. It sounds better when you read it with the proper cadence, I swear.

Continuing that thought, the game was likely not developed in English, but it was translated fairly well. It’s got a few grammatical oopsies here and there, but that’s something one comes to expect after having played so many no-budget indie games. What really gives it away is the voice acting. In the odd instance that your player character speaks to herself out loud, it’s very slurred and heavily accented. So much so, that I’m confident that the actress does not actually speak English, but was just taught to read her script phonetically.

That’s small beans, though. Who really cares about whether you can understand the voice actress anyway? We all just want to know more about the gameplay! Because gameplay is king! Nothing else matters! This exaggeration isn’t funny!

You Deserve is what the kids would call a “walking simulator” but there is a little more to it than just gambolling from plot trigger to plot trigger. You will have to pick up items and find where they belong, solve some very simple puzzles, collect a wide variety of keys, and sometimes punch over a stack of boxes to continue forward. So, yeah, it’s pretty much a walking simulator, but with some adventure elements. It’s slightly more interactive than The Park was, for comparison.

What is annoying about these adventure elements is that the game is dark, and the items you need to collect don’t always stand out from the environment. They don’t flash or sparkle like items in other games. I spent 15 minutes looking for a crowbar once, because it was placed on a surface with a very similar texture and it was very difficult to pick out. Also, some items are in semi-randomized locations, so something might be found in one spot, and then magically show up elsewhere (albeit nearby) if you die and need to pick it up again. Super annoying.

Sometimes, a glitch will cause necessary items to simply not spawn at all.

That’s the kind of game this is.

The best puzzle in the game is one where you need to magically unlock a door by opening a set of lockers in the right order. It’s not terribly difficult, but it did seem like the kind of puzzle you’d find near the beginning of a Silent Hill game.

The absolute worst part of the game is the very end, where you’re dumped out into a massive area and have to collect three items. As I mentioned before, they don’t necessarily stand out enough, so they’re very easy to pass by, and also there’s an insta-kill monster on the loose and if you die you end up back at the start, having lost any items you collected. It’s a massive pain in the butt, and the point where I no longer had any patience for the game, so I quit and watched the rest on YouTube.

So if the gameplay is wanting, the story should be strong enough to push the player through to the end, right? Well… not especially. You begin in a strange park-like area, with an inexplicable catacomb beneath it. Or at least that’s what I took away from it. Your character has no idea where they are or why they’re there. Then you’re ambushed by a monster and wake up in the basement of your character’s high school. This is the point where you can start to suss out who you are and what’s going on, should you read the files scattered about. I wasn’t really interested enough to bother, and read any files I happened upon, but there were definitely a few that I missed. Then you wander through another park, a haunted house, and finally, an expanded version of the aforementioned park. All the while, very little story is happening.

To summarize said happenings: the plot is about a girl in some sort of nightmare realm created by the zombified remains of a former classmate. This classmate allegedly committed suicide because she was bullied by your character and her clique. So zombie girl leverages her lingering hatred to pull the offending kids into a nightmare and kill them off one by one. Your character is ostensibly the last of the crew to go. Then at the end you try to exorcise the zombo-girl, but in typical horror story fashion, the success is a short-lived fake-out. Did I use enough hyphenated words in that sentence?

I think the fact that I didn’t care enough to remember a single character’s name says enough about how invested I was in this tale.

Personally, I think that I spent too much time with this game. It’s only about an hour long, but I faffed about and got lost enough that I doubled that, and then some. I think that if you know all the passcodes and where the items and keys are located, you could probably clear the whole thing in under 20 minutes. Me, I had trouble with some events triggering and ended up running in circles for far too long before consulting a guide and resetting to correct the bug. And then the aforementioned issue with the key item that failed to spawn.

All in all, I found that my expectations of You Deserve were met, but that’s not saying much, because said expectations were about as low as they go. The title screen may have been the most impressive part of the game, which set a pretty poor precedent. Would I have enjoyed it more if I had a more powerful machine and it ran at full speed? Maybe. Would it be a better game if the bugs were ironed out? That’s debatable. Would streamlining the fetch quest at the end improve the game dramatically? Certainly. But none of those things are going to happen, so You Deserve will forever languish in mediocrity. To be 100% truthful, I would suggest that even if you get this game in a bundle, even if you’re given a free copy, that you just shuffle it over to the category of Steam games you’re never going to touch. It’s not worth your time or effort.

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Pokémon Sun-Day

It’s finally here! The day of the new Pokémon games! Hurrah and hooray!

My brother and I went to a midnight launch event last night, which was not the best idea for me, as I still had to work all day today. But I just couldn’t wait another eighteen hours to get that sweet, sweet Pokémon Sun cartridge into my hands. I think I got a grand total of about three and a half hours of sleep last night, but hey, it’s Friday. I can afford run at less-than-optimal performance today.

I also made the executive decision to play for an hour when I got home, which wasn’t really enough, but it was the perfect allotment of time for me to reset over and over until I rolled a female Popplio (did not worry about getting a beneficial nature). Maybe I’m being insensitive about gender roles or whatever, but Popplio’s evolved forms just look like ladies, you know? It would feel wrong to me to have a male Primarina.

Anyway, enough typing! It’s time to actually play the darn game! All night long! Or at least until I pass out from exhaustion!

Here, have a trailer that will make absolutely no sense if you’re not a Pokéfan:

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An idyllic island of some sort

During my, uh, “travels” through my mighty backlog of Steam games, I happened upon one called Heaven Island. It is a game like no other. Wait, no, that’s a lie. It’s actually got a lot in common with Proteus. And I didn’t really care for Proteus. Also, I’m not entirely sure what the actual title of the game is. On the bundle page I redeemed it from, it’s called Paradise Island. In the Steam library, it’s called Heaven Island. I don’t think the game proper ever references its title, so maybe it goes both ways? *wink*

Moving on, Paraven Island is the walkingest walking simulator that ever simulated. That’s almost literally all there is to it. Just bumbling around an island, looking at the trees and random structures scattered about. You can also pick up apples and seashells to earn achievements.

The game’s gimmick is that it’s an MMO, in the most basic sense. There’s no actual player interaction, though, and every player is represented by a ball of shimmering light instead of the more typical humanoid avatar. The online portion seems like a vestigial limb that probably should have just withered off long ago.

I suppose there’s another gimmick, which is that Heavadise Island is VR compatible. I did not play it in VR mode, as I have no VR device. I don’t think that this really affected my experience, because… the game isn’t really VR friendly.

See, the entire conceit of VR is that it’s more immersive than anything else. In this game, however, there is pop-in like crazy (that may very well be my PC’s fault), and you can simply walk through a lot of solid objects. These are not overly immersive traits. Also, there’s nothing to do but wander! Collecting apples only goes so far.

As one more little thing to do, there are a number books scattered about the island. They all contain short messages telling you to appreciate the game for what it is, couched in feel-good adages like “If you are depressed, you’re living in the past. If you are content, you’re living in the present.” I stopped looking at them after a while because if I had rolled my eyes one more time, they would’ve popped right out of their sockets.

Overall, there’s really nothing to Paradise Heaven. It’s a nice little beach to boot around on, but I can’t help but feel like I’d get a lot more out of, you know, actually being on that island. And not in the VR sense. It’s a perfect representation of a secluded little spot that I’d love to go to get away from the world for a while, but the lack of interactivity with anything makes the pretend version feel more hollow than anything. I can only watch digital fish swim in circles for so long.

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Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – October 2016

Every October (and even in late September), I get so excited about Halloween, and intend to play a bunch of spooky games to celebrate. And that… doesn’t usually pan out. Was 2016 any different? Read on to find out!

~ Game Over ~

FNAF: Sister Location (PC) – If you don’t count the RPG spinoff, this is the first FNAF game I’ve really gotten into. And it’s spectacular. While it is not quite as terrifying as its older brothers, Sister Location is still Spooky As Heck.

Year Walk (WiiU) – I’ve been itching to replay this for months, telling myself “wait for Halloween” and finally the time came! It’s a really great adventure with clever puzzles and a neat twist halfway through. Turns out that you can clear it in well under an hour, but still, it’s Pretty Darn Spooky.

Pokémon Pearl (DS) – While I have a team that’s half spooky-looking Pokémon (Misdreavus, Crobat, and Luxray), and the bad guys want to basically destroy the universe, Pokémon is simply Not Spooky.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS) – A regular Metroid game could definitely be considered spooky, but with Federation Force’s focus on action and teamwork, it falls just short of the bar. Not Spooky, but a very solid game otherwise.

Picross 3D Round 2 (3DS) – Decidedly Not Spooky. In fact, it may be the least spooky game on the list, with its relaxing atmosphere and lack of any sort of conflict.

Final Fantasy VIII (PC) – There are a number of creepy monsters and witches in this game, but overall, I’d have to say that it’s Not Spooky. The hammy characters and colourful graphics just don’t lend themselves well to creating a frightful atmosphere.

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TE Movie Time: HAUSU

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the Japanese horror (“horror”) film Hausu (or House, if you demand Englishness), but I watched it over the weekend, and BOY OH BOY was it a thing that happened.

At first blush it seems as though this would be the kind of movie that bombed hard and then gained a cult following in the decades that followed. This is mostly the case, or at least that’s what I got from briefly skimming the Wikipedia article. But this film is actually part of the Criterion Collection! It’s considered to be fine art! Which is not the kind of thing one would suspect after having watched it!

That’s not to say that Hausu is without merit. It’s got a lot of insane scenes and I certainly appreciate that they were going for wacky. But as a whole, it mostly left me cold. Maybe it’s because we live in the year 2016 and I’ve become desensitized to goofiness, but I feel like they didn’t really push the envelope far enough. There remains plenty of room to be even more mind-boggling.

But hey, three paragraphs in and I’ve already written my conclusion! That will not do! Let’s turn this puppy around and start from the start. Which I’m going to tear through in a single paragraph, because the first half hour is a slog.

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Half-hearted-oween

Halloween may be my favourite holiday. Not to the extent that Dinosaur Dracula and The Sexy Armpit love it, but it’s definitely the annual occasion that plays to the most of my interests. You’ve got candy, you’ve got monsters, you’ve got pumpkins. All the best things that modern life has to offer. Also, it takes place in autumn, the best season of all.

And yet, I feel like in 2016, I’ve really pooped the bed in regards to celebrating Halloween properly. The fact that my house remains undecorated is more of a by-product of me not knowing if I’d still be living there come October 31st, but I could certainly be dabbling in other ways of showing my appreciation for the best season of all. That said, it’s time for a play-by-play of all the Halloweeny things I’ve done so far.

Foodstuffs

  • I’ve eaten more Oreos over the last six weeks than throughout the rest of the year, and while most of them were Pumpkin Spice flavoured, which is only mildly Halloweeny, there was a pack of actual Halloween Oreos in there. You know, the ones that are just plain Oreos, but with the amazing neon orange filling? Pretty great.
  • I bought a pack of Pillsbury ready-to-bake Pumpkin Spice cookies. While they were maybe not quite appropriate for the holiday, they were the amazing.
  • There are two packs of Pillsbury ready-to-bake sugar cookies in my fridge, and they are in the spirit of the season. One has pumpkins, and the other black cats. I intend to make them next weekend.
  • I bought a box of Coffin Crisp to keep at my desk at work, but that’s been it for Halloween-themed candy. It seems like interesting ‘Ween editions of established candy is getting harder an harder to find. At least here in stupid Canada, where fun junk food is illegal.
  • While at a craft show, I purchased a pack of skull-shaped cookies. They were frosted in an assortment of neon colours, and they were delicious. Not really $1-per cookie delicious, but as a one-time thing, not a bad buy.
  • There is a box of Spookylicious Pop-Tarts in my cupboard that I have yet to break into. I am under the impression that they are regular chocolate fudge Pop-Tarts, but with orange frosting and fun bat-shaped sprinkles.
  • My mom bought me a single box of Franken Berry, which I appreciated greatly. But during all of my travels, I haven’t been able to find another box, or any of the other monster cereals. What awful luck I have.

Media

  • I have played exactly one good horror-themed video game so far this season, and that is Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location. And really, if you’re only going to play one scary game, it’s… decent enough. Like, I think it’s a great game, but there are many more substantial options.
  • I also played one terrible scary game, and it’s called Haunted Hotel. It was garbage.
  • There’s still time to pop in a couple quick horror games, though. I do intend to make a run at the first Silent Hill, as I can reliably finish it in a single sitting. Really, I should have put Paper Mario: Color Splash on the back-burner this month and focused on one of the many horror-themed Steam games I’ve not played.
  • The Shallows and Black Mirror: White Christmas are dramas that lie somewhere on the ‘frightening’ scale, but don’t really fit the spirit of Halloween. But I don’t think I’d feel quite right watching the latter as a Christmas movie either.
  • Emelie and The Invitation are a little closer to the right kind of spooky, as they don’t take place on a beach or during Christmastime, but they still aren’t overly Halloweeny. Definitely a disturbing pair of films, however.
  • I did watch Creepshow and Creepshow 2 back in late September, which are A+ as far as Halloween spirit goes, but honestly, I wasn’t crazy about them. A couple of the stories were really good, but others bored me to tears. I’d recommend looking up “Something to Tide You Over” and “Old Chief Wood’nhead” independently, rather than watching the entirety of both anthologies.
  • The VVitch was really great! So good that I wrote a number of words about it!
  • I really, really watch to watch The Babadook, but just the Google image results have been giving me nightmares for weeks. I don’t think I can hack it.
  • Other movies on the docket, that I probably won’t find time to watch: Hausu, Alien, Burying the Ex, Zombeavers, etc, etc…

Other?

  • I suppose it falls under media, but I choose to note that I’ve been following the Purple Stuff Podcast in this section because it’s a little empty otherwise. Anyway, Matt and Jay have put out a couple Halloween-themed episodes this year, but not nearly as many as they did in 2015. Maybe I’ll just have to listen to those old ones again.
  • My house is so sparsely decorated this year. It’s sad. There’s a weird aluminum pumpkin by the door, and a lights-and-sounds door knocker… on the wall downstairs. That’s it. By the time I knew I’d still be living in the house for Halloween, I had already given up on decorating.
  • I do have a candy corn-scented candle that has been out and lit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a very strong scent, so it’s more about mood lighting than anything else.
  • My search for better Halloween candles has come up empty-handed. Of course, I haven’t been looking especially hard, but you would think that this kind of thing would just be jumping off the shelves at you during this time of year.
  • I don’t have a costume or plan for Halloween night. I’ll probably spend it the same way I do every other Monday night: at my parents’ house, watching The Bachelorette Canada. Which, you know, is totally fine by me.
  • I haven’t even been to the Spirit store this year. I am the worst Halloween fan ever.
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This is EXCITING!

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Metal Gear Mario

In the year 2016, a Mario game features an unmistakable homage to Metal Gear Solid.

I love it.

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Other things that happen

I’m fairly well-known as the kind of person who doesn’t like to do things that require effort and/or pants. But last weekend, I did a whole lot of things! New(ish) things! Including but not limited to:

  • Talked to the greeter and took the time to craft my own burger at McDonald’s
  • Ate at McDonald’s on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (I’m not proud of this one)
  • Went on a late-night Pokémon Go expedition to the zoo
  • Met and played with a new puppy
  • Checked out an annual craft show for the first time
  • Bought expensive artisanal mustards
  • Was disappointed that I didn’t find a candle that I liked
  • Performed an “Irish Goodbye”
  • Helped my grandparents move into an apartment
  • Went through a regular checkout lane instead of the express checkout at Safeway because I wanted a specific cashier

What an exciting life I lead!

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