2021 is the Hunteringest Number

Two new Monster Hunter game for Switch were announced this morning. TWO! Yes, they’re both 2021 releases, but that’s fine! I can wait! Just gimme dem monsta hoonts!

Monster Hunter Rise looks like it might be Monster Hunter 6? It really makes me wonder what direction(s) the series will be going in. Like, I’m pretty sure Monster Hunter World moved a metric buttload of units and was critically acclaimed, so why did Capcom jump back to the Switch for the next installment? Unless Rise is going to be a parallel series? But it looks like a lot of the major changes from World (seamless maps, grappling hook, monster turf wars) are carrying over to Rise, so it’s hard to say. I suppose it doesn’t matter. I’ll buy every Monster Hunter game regardless of platform, but I would be slightly happier if they’d just choose a lane and stick to it.

Or somehow make every game available on all platforms, but I fully understand why that might be difficult/impossible.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 is also super hype, and really makes me regret not having finished the first one. It was a lot of fun, but just got lost in the tidal wave of video games. My only concern about MHS2 is that the trailer makes it look super-serious, when the original game was very cartoony and had a silly, self-aware vibe to it. Hopefully the trailer for MHS2 is just highlighting the story parts, and the game still has a good sens of humour about it. At least 50% of MHS’s appeal was in its charm, so it would be a massive loss if they pivoted to a more “mature” tone. I’m absolutely going to buy it either way, but just sayin’.

Fitness Boxing 2 was also announced today, which I am legitimately very excited about, but this post is about MONSTER HUNTERING, DARN IT.

Mind blown (but in the worst way)

Yesterday, Nintendo uploaded a fun new promotional video to show off all the junk they’re going to try to sell you for Mario’s 35th anniversary. You can watch it below.

And it’s like, okay, most of these products I don’t really give a sniff about. The LEGO, the t-shirts, the AR Mario Kart… thing, a Super Mario 3D World re-release. Cool things that fans might enjoy, but are not for me, specifically. But there were a couple items that I would definitely buy, like the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection. And maybe that neat Game&Watch machine. And also Super Mario Bros 35, which is free-to-play so why not.

But then you stop and think about the history of Nintendo and special merch like this. That Super Mario Bros Game&Watch machine is going to be obscenely rare, and will quickly skyrocket in price on eBay and whatnot. So I’ve already convinced myself that I actually don’t care about it and that I’m not even going to bother trying to buy one. It’s unfortunate because the consumer whore in me is hurting, but the reality is that there’s really no need for it anyway. I’m better off without. I already have many avenues through which to play Super Mario Bros.

I’m also completely perplexed by the idea that Nintendo is only going to be selling Super Mario 3D All-Stars for six months. And then it’s gone. Into the Disney vault, as they say. I could understand a short run on physical cartridges, but the digital version too? It’s an incredibly weird choice. But it doesn’t really affect me because you know I’m picking that collection up on day one anyway.

The thing that really, truly makes me grumpy is that Super Mario Bros 35 is going to be a limited time only thing. I know that nothing lasts forever, and that I should focus on enjoying it while it’s around, but I just can’t understand why Nintendo wouldn’t choose to support this awesome idea for more than a few months. I could absolutely see myself picking it up for a run or two every so often like I do with Tetris 99, but it is not meant to be.

So, grumps aside, I’m really happy that I’ll be able to play Super Mario 64 on yet another machine. That is, after all, the true meaning of life.

Kratos & Son Lake Tours Co.

I’m a well-known not-fan of the God of War series of video games. In all fairness, I’ve only played the first game. But I feel that when you quit a game halfway through because you’re not getting anything from it, it’s fair to just skip the sequels. However, after some light prodding by my brothers, I recently began playing the most recent game in the series, Dad of Boy.

While it bothers me once in a while that it feels very generic because it’s a Triple-A game and it does all the things that every Triple-A game must (Skill trees! Colour-coded loot! Armor crafting! Endless checklists! Murder milestones!), I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I’ve been enjoying it. It has so many elements that I like that the original God of War either didn’t fully deliver on, or was missing completely. I don’t know if any of the games in between would satisfy me in the same way, but I don’t really see myself going back for them anyway.

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Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: August 2020

~ Game Over ~

Ellen (Switch) – Pixel-art, side-scrolly, spook-’em-up adventure. Head and shoulders above nearly any other similar game I’ve played. It’s right up there with The Cat Lady on my list of best horror-themed adventure games. Only a few hours long, but told an interesting (if somewhat clichéd and poorly translated) story and did an excellent job of maintaining its creepiness all the way to the end.

The Talos Principle (PS4) – Wrote lots of words. Actually beat it twice to claim all the trophies, and then played the DLC expansion.

Erica (PS4) – I wonder if I should actually put this here, as it’s less a game than a choose-your-own-adventure movie. Played through twice to see a couple different endings, but two was enough. There isn’t nearly enough variance in the story to bother with more replays. At least not right away. Notably, there’s an companion app that you can download to use as a controller, which is good since the game is otherwise controlled entirely by the DualShock 4’s touch pad, and the DualShock 4’s touch pad sucks ass.

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You should definitely play The Talos Principle

For years, it seemed, every time I checked my Steam inventory I would find a new discount coupon for a game called The Talos Principle. I had no idea what it really was, but the promotional image was of a humanoid robot holding a cat. Not exactly the ideal way to pique my interest. So I ignored it over and over until just recently.

When the 2020 Summer Sale started on PSN, I was browsing the games, and saw that The Talos Principle was on sale. I don’t recall exactly what it was that made me change my mind, but I clicked on in and noticed that it was described as a “philosophical first-person puzzle game” which made something click within me. I quickly Googled it and saw that it holds a 10/10 rating on Steam and has generally excellent review scores. So I bought it.

Even at that point, I didn’t even start playing it until weeks later, when I needed to clear out some space on my PS4’s hard drive. The Talos Principle seemed like it wouldn’t require a huge time commitment, so I hopped in.

I am so frustrated with myself for blowing this game off for so long.

The Talos Principle is, without a doubt, one of the most satisfying video games that I have ever played. Not only is the puzzle solving a ton of fun and mind-bending in all the best ways, but the theme and narrative of the game are maybe the deepest that I’ve ever seen in a video game.

Diving straight into that theme, I don’t think that I’ve ever played or even heard of another video game that so thoughtfully explores the realms of philosophy, faith, and artificial intelligence. The Talos Principle is a deep dive into existentialism, examining concepts such as the meaning of life and what it means to be a person. Many of these ideas are touched on in short text logs -either diaries or emails of in-game characters- or excerpts from (what I assume are) real-world texts. In addition to that, the main throughline of the the game is your constant interaction with an AI who presents philosophical questions to you and then challenges you to defend your points of view. It’s so unique, and really made me think about the ideas that I was working through. It’s also an awesome coincidence that I’ve actually been getting into philosophy in real life, so it it was all that more impactful to me.

There’s also a concurrent plot about figuring out exactly where you are, how you got there, and whether or not you should really be listening to the booming, disembodied voice that claims to be your character’s creator. It’s interesting stuff, and I always appreciate when a game’s backstory and world building is parceled out into little chunks that you discover throughout your journey, giving you the chance to come up with your own theories as you slowly put all the pieces together. It’s maybe been a little overused, but I still like it. Fortunately, The Talos Principle never really gives you the hard details of the backstory, so you get a nice picture of what happened while still being able to fill in the gaps with your imagination.

What I’m getting at here, is that I really like games -or any other media- that keeps me thinking about it even after I’m done interacting with it.

As far as the gameplay? It’s highly reminiscent of Portal. The game is broken up into worlds and levels, and each level has a handful of bite-sized “test chambers” for you to solve. There are a number of tools that you unlock along the way, each one adding more complexity to the puzzles that you’ll be tackling. So I guess it’s really more like Portal 2 in that way. While the designers were able to come up with many puzzle variations for each tool, it’s when you have to use multiple tools in a single puzzle that things get really nutty. One tool in particular, the recorder, allows you to make a ghostly copy of yourself and sort of duplicate all your other tools. Every time I came across a puzzle that used the recorder I got a pre-emptive headache because those puzzles were always the most mind-bending and really force you to think several moves ahead. There are even a few rare examples where you have to figure out completely new concepts on your own. The finale is an epic multi-tier series of puzzles where you have to work alongside another robot to make your way to the end.

Your prize for solving each main puzzle is a tetromino, which are used for various things: the green pieces unlock each world, the yellow pieces unlock new tools, and the red pieces unlock the finale. To unlock anything, you’re presented with a square or rectangular grid and smattering of tetrominos, and your job is to fit all the pieces into the grid. They start small, but the bigger grids near the end of the game get really tough. They may have even been some of the toughest puzzles in the game, since there isn’t really a good strategy (that I was able to discover) for reliably solving them.

And then there are the stars. 30 stars are hidden throughout the worlds, and they unlock bonus worlds that unlock a bonus ending. Many of the stars are maddeningly difficult to find, never mind actually figuring out how to claim them. Some require you to sneak tools out of puzzle chambers, some require you to criss-cross beams across multiple puzzles, some make you come up with unexpected ways to use your tools. One particularly nasty one requires you to follow a QR code to a hex code that you need to convert to a time and date, from which you need to pull numbers to punch into a giant dial. Basically, the stars tend to go way beyond the scope of the way that The Talos Principle teaches you to think, and I don’t feel bad for looking up hints or outright solutions for several of them. To my credit, I solved every other puzzle in the game on my own. It’s just that those damn stars could be so obtuse that I don’t think I would have even had the mental capacity to collect them all without help.

The PS4 version (and I’m assuming all versions at this point) even comes with an extra DLC chapter, Road to Gehenna, which is essentially a super-very-hard expansion pack. As of this writing I’m only a few puzzles in, but they have been absolutely crazy, and the stars have been just as obnoxious to find as ever. There’s also a whole new sub-plot about a bunch of androids who deal with being caged within the world’s puzzles by forming an online community. It’s intensely in-depth and you’d best bring your reading glasses because there is tons of text to burn through.

(Editor’s note: I’ve finished it now, and Road to Gehenna is incredible.)

I said earlier that The Talos Principle has much in common with Portal. Robots, puzzles, turrets, a disembodied voice directing you through puzzles. Portal goads you along with the false promise of cake, The Talos Principle goads you along with the false promise of ascension and immortality. Although maybe it’s not actually a false promise? You’ll have to play it yourself to find out, and I absolutely recommend doing so. The Talos Principle is an incredible game, a profoundly thoughtful experience unlike any other in the realm of video games. And also it’s just a lot of fun to solve all those puzzles.

Gotta Brush ’em All!

A couple months ago, The Pokémon Company released the weirdest little app called Pokémon Smile – a “game” that encourages children to brush their teeth by bringing Pokémon into the equation. Obviously I’ve been using it myself, despite not being a child (at least, physiologically).

Pokémon Smile is a strange thing – it watches you as you brush your teeth, and then rewards you based on how effectively it thinks you brushed. And I would like to put an emphasis on the “thinks” part, because it’s not great at determining how well you’re brushing your teeth. Quite often I’m brushing at full force, and it still relays the message “you’re doing good – but brush a bit faster!” It will also randomly lose sight of me, although my head and face have not moved from center-screen. I think it has problems understanding that one’s grip on their toothbrush will change depending on what area of the mouth they’re currently focusing on.

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Indie World Showcase 8.18.2020 – Ry-actions

Nintendo has been pretty quiet about games announcements this year, probably almost entirely due to the good ol’ coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, we’ve still been getting little bits of info here and there. One such bit is today’s Indie World Showcase – what I’m sure will be an extended sizzle reel of indie games that I’ll think look neat and then completely forget about because they’ll get no marketing at all after this.

That said, let’s go ahead and see which of these games may get lucky enough to get placed on my wishlist!

Hades – Supergiant’s other games that I’ve played, Bastion and Transistor, were good and I can see why they have a following, but they didn’t really turn my crank. And this is a roguelike dungeon crawler? Ehhh, I dunno about that. The animation they showed looked great, but it’s kind of irrelevant. The brief glance at gameplay looks just like the previously mentioned games but with a different coat of paint. I’ll definitely pick it up when it inevitably goes on sale for $3, but probably not before then.

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With an anchor, you say?

I’ve been totally captivated by Alestorm over the last couple weeks. Scottish Pirate Metal not something I ever knew existed, and now it’s all that I want at all times. Admittedly, it’s a very gimmicky sub-genre, so I don’t know how long the fascination will last, but I am absolutely certain that the song embedded below will always make me laugh.

Director’s cuts

I had grand plans for the summer of 2020 – namely to record and upload a video to my YouTube channel at least once a week. I failed miserably on only the third week. I’d like to blame technology, but in the end it still really comes down to me.

To explain: The wrench in the works here is that sometimes when I record a video, the file ends up being upside-down once I’ve moved it to my PC. I have no idea why, but it really shouldn’t have been a problem. Shouldn’t. But Camtasia 6 is like the only video editing software in the world that can’t flip a video’s orientation, and that’s the software that I’ve been using forever. My bad for using a far-outdated program, I suppose.

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