Let’s do the Odyssey!

Nearly all of last weekend was spent playing Super Mario Odyssey. I also took a few breaks to mash in two-thirds of Stranger Things season 2, and I was forced to sleep a little bit here and there. But mostly I just played Super Mario Odyssey.

AND WHAT A GREAT WEEKEND IT WAS!

Super Mario Odyssey is just packed – PACKED – with content and charm and fun and surprises. To the point where I think that its biggest shortcoming is how in the world is Nintendo ever going to make a worthy follow-up to this? But that concern is for like ten to fifteen years from now. Until that time, we can just bask in the perfection of the game we have.

For as much content as Nintendo showed off in various trailers over the year (that’s right, it was less than a year from reveal to release), there were still so many wonderful surprises in store that I was constantly grinning and constantly experiencing something new. There were so many unexpected gameplay twists in the assorted kingdoms that I cannot even begin to list out the best of them.

What struck me the most, however, is that once you collect enough Power Moons to get to the end of the story and defeat Bowser (which is a mind-blowing sequence of events, starting from the moment you set foot in the “final” kingdom), you’ve really only experienced like half the game. Maybe even less, if other accounts are to be believed. In fact, as soon as you boot up the post-game, you’re plonked into a new kingdom that I love to death. Absolutely wonderful and even better than the Throwback Galaxy that I adored from Super Mario Galaxy 2. I spent hours bopping around in this new kingdom alone, and there was still tons of other new content that I had unlocked that I had yet to start exploring. Really, I have no idea how many more massive secrets this game has yet to reveal.

One of the more questionable elements is that Super Mario Odyssey has honest-to-God achievements. Which is fine in and of itself; I don’t even mind that they count towards your in-game completion rate. What irks me is how they’re handled. Unlike system-level achievements on other game machines, you don’t just get them as you go. You need to beat the game to access them in the first place, and then you need to talk to Toadette, who will dole out a Power Moon for each one you’ve earned. And she hands them out one-by one. It’s a tedious process no matter which way you approach it.

As I said before, there is still plenty of game left for me to absorb. I have roughly 300 Power Moons out of… I think the official number is 905 or so? But then you can also collect up to 999 of them, so that’s a thing. Anyway, there’s a lot of game left! I’m excited! And I’m excited to see if this one is as timeless as Super Mario 64. In 2007 I thought that Super Mario Galaxy would overtake it as my favourite Mario, but I still haven’t ever replayed that game even as far as the credits, whereas I’ve 100%ed Mario 64 many times over those years.

But enough rambling. Super Mario Odyssey is really, really good! I’m probably going to spend most of this weekend playing it, too.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – October 2017

It was a rough month, because I had to make hard decisions about whether to spend my precious free time playing the hottest new releases, or the spookiest games in my library (because Halloween, you see). In the end, I just played like an hour each of all the games.

~ Game Over ~

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch) – Duh-doy.

Kirby Super Star (SNES) – The first thing I played on the SNES Classic, because I will always replay Kirby Super Star. I need to get someone else in on it though, as the AI allies are so dumb.

Magikarp Jump! (iOS) – I did it! I reached the end! Also, this is an idle game that actually has an end! ….Of course, there’s post-game content, but it’s not really worth exploring too deeply.

Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers (Wii) – Stop judging me!

Star Fox (SNES) – Ran through the easy route as a refresher before trying out Star Fox 2.

Picross S (Switch) – It’s hard to focus on scary games for the Halloween season when there’s a new picross game out…

Death Road to Canada (PC) – More roguelikes need to be funny (and multiplayer). That’s why I have so much trouble getting into them. This is what I’ve decided, and why I’ll play this game forever.

Silent Hill: Downpour (360) – Surprisingly, this is only my first replay of what is maybe my second-favourite Silent Hill game.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Wii) – It’s that time of year!

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The longest week ever

It’s finally here! Today marks the day of Super Mario Odyssey‘s release! Wa-hoo!

Making it to Friday has been a bit of a trial, however. First and foremost, I have been having some severe issues with sleeping this week, so I am crazy overtired. Having to spend three hours in a statistics class last night did not help the situation.

Actually, the whole lack of sleep thing is really about the only thing that’s really causing me problems. It started snowing yesterday and now the world is coated in a thin and very slippery sheet of ice, but that’s minimal. I don’t go outside all that often anyway, and I’m good about dressing warmly to deal with the sub-zero temperatures.

Of note is that I also had a mid-term exam in the aforementioned statistics class on Tuesday. Which was a great source of anxiety in the days prior, and probably contributed some to my restlessness on the Sunday night. Monday night I would have slept like a baby if not for the jerkhole what lives below me that has seen fit to start very loud phone/Skype conversations every night at midnight this week. And he won’t stop or talk more quietly no matter how much I stomp on my floor. T_T

I am not completely innocent in my sleep deprivation, either. While I have been kept awake by outside sources (namely that loud-talking downstairs neighbour) for the other nights this week, I went with my brother to the midnight Mario launch at a local retailer last night, which may have not been the wisest course of action. On the plus side, they opened at 11 instead of 12, so with a quick transaction and a short drive, I was home in time to get to bed about the same time as usual. Except for I couldn’t resist cracking open the game case right away and playing a little bit, so my tiredness today is entirely my own fault.

Was it worth it? Meh. The opening scenes and tutorial stage aren’t terribly exciting, so it’s not like I got a whole lot out of that first ten minutes. But at least it’s out of the way and when I start playing in earnest after work, it’s going to be amaaaaaaazing.

Though in reality, I’m probably going to just pass out five minutes in.

(Also important: Ninja Sex Party’s Under The Covers: Volume 2 is out today, and season 2 of Stranger Things is up on Netflix. I really should have taken the day off!)

My Organ Harvesting Diary: Day Two

Over the weekend, I found a little time between studying and watching the entire second season of Attack on Titan to play a bit more of Forget Me Not: My Organic Garden. And let me tell you, the second chapter was not substantially more exciting than the first.

The gameplay mechanics have grown slightly more complex, without any hope that some of the things that need constant clicking will start to click themselves. First of all, I was given a meat grinder. The idea is that you can pluck organs off a tree before they’re ripe to grind them into mincemeat. It seemed completely arbitrary and pointless up until the point where I learned how to make “excellent” organs. This is accomplished by letting a single organ grow on a tree while chucking any others that sprout into the grinder. So essentially, the grinder is a way of giving you something back for all those perfectly good organs you’re throwing away in hopes of cultivating one really good one.

The catalog hasn’t expanded appreciably yet. In addition to the frogs, I can now purchase moles and woodpeckers. The moles make organs sprout on trees faster (but don’t speed up the ripening process) and the woodpeckers will make the meat grinder run faster. This is all well and good, but the animals get distracted from their jobs very quickly, so once you have a decent sized stable of animals, you’re constantly clicking around to get them back to work. It’s more than a little annoying.

I was also given a third tree to babysit, this new one growing stomachs. It was at this point that I decided that trying to keep all three trees going at once was too much of a pain, and opted to just focus on one or two at a time. It seems like the “grow X number of Y organ” and “get tree Z to level Q” quests just repeat forever with higher numbers, so the best course of action seems to be to just focus on whatever the active story quest is. Sure, you can run the other quests over and over to earn more cash, but there isn’t anything really worth buying yet at this point in the game.

As far as the story goes, it’s mostly just been more creepy customers. One was a little girl who wanted an organ to make her cat talk. Irene told her that one of these magical soul-giving organs can only be put into something that isn’t alive, so the girl left, killed her cat, and then brought it back with the same request. Good lord! I think there was someone else who made a strong impression on me at the time, but I guess it wasn’t that strong in reality, because I’ve completely forgotten. Also there was a mysterious lady in black who came in and the whole screen turned dark, but not much happened with her yet.

So where is this story going? I have no idea. I really just hope that something happens with the gameplay to keep it from getting any more annoying. There is still room for more trees/machines/whatever, and I don’t much care for the idea of having even more clickable things to babysit. In fact, I might just sell all the stupid animals…

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.

*update: I scored 85% on the mid-term. Not too shabby!

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.