GOTY 2023: A Startling Upset

I’ve been hard at work on my Top 10 Video Games of 2023 article already, in hopes of having it posted before March 2024. I’m never going to forgive myself for that one…

Anyway, I had the whole list decided on, had a couple of entries written out completely, and then The Talos Principle 2 dropped. I finished it last weekend and knew that it would absolutely need a place in my Top 10, possibly even in the top spot. So I had to make a cut. And it was difficult! Very, very difficult! Alas, it had to be done. I can’t have a Top 11 Games of 2023, now can I?

Unfortunately, the decision I made was to cut a game I’d already done a write-up for, and it seemed like a shame to just throw out all of that “hard work.” So I’m posting it here, now. It’s not going to get a fancy banner image, but it will retain a special place in my heart.

Continue reading GOTY 2023: A Startling Upset

24 Days of Quarantine Fun – Day 18: Drink!

Alright guys, this one’s easy. It’s the last Friday before Xmas Week, and you’re probably more than a bit stressed. I mean, maybe not for the same reasons as you would be in any other year, but the lockdowns and restrictions are getting us all bummed out. Next week is going to be… well, probably relatively quiet. But imagine that it’s not 2020 and we’re heading into the whirlwind that is the week before Xmas.

Back to the point: It’s Friday! Tonight, your only job is to sit back, put your feet up, and get yourself sloshed. Okay, maybe not sloshed, but get yourself a nice buzz-on and let your troubles melt away. Pop on some of those holiday specials/movies that you’ve picked out, and just forget the world for a while. Unless, of course, you have issues with alcohol. In which case maybe just brew yourself a nice cup of tea or something. It’s not quite the same, but it’ll do in a pinch.

Me, I’ve got a big box of beer to work through. It’s been a really long time since I bought a case of beer, and Lockdown Xmas seemed like the perfect time. Even outside of this time of year, it feels so nice to crack a beer or two on a Friday evening to celebrate making it to the end of another week. Knowing me, though, I’ll probably spend most of my night nursing the first bottle and pass out on the couch by 9:30.

Continue reading 24 Days of Quarantine Fun – Day 18: Drink!

Return of Vintsevych

When I decided -a couple weeks ago- that I was going to play Gynophobia on stream, I had no idea that it was from the same developer as Shadows Peak. You don’t have to watch very far into the video below to hear the contrasting delight and terror in my voice as I boot up the game and learn this fact.

Gynophobia didn’t imprint on me nearly as strongly as Shadows Peak, and it’s clearly the older of the two games, but I do have some appreciation for it. Gynophobia played with my expectations more than a little, though it’s definitely a lot more straightforward than its younger sibling. Still, a fun, wild ride – and my playthrough is much more watchable at a brisk 42 minutes.

Honestly I can’t wait to crack into Andrii Vintsevych’s most recent game, Witch Hunt, at some point. But it’s not in the cards for tonight’s stream. No, this week is going to be something a little more special…

Duke Nukem 3D is a weird video game

I purchased Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour on Switch last weekend on a whim. Partly because it had a 50% launch discount, and partly because nostalgia. Unlike most games I buy, I wasn’t even sure I was going to play it. I mostly just wanted to know that I could play it.

Truly, I live a life of six-dollar luxuries.

But then I did start playing the game, and so many things started jumping out at me as weird. Immediately I was taken aback to learn that the first episode only has five levels. Like, what? I guess it came as a surprise because no version of the game I’ve played before let you choose any stage you want right from the word go (which is a really cool feature, actually).

The first two stages didn’t hold anything particularly new or exciting for me. Those are the ones I’ve played the most and am mostly familiar with. I used to play Duke 3D all the time when I’d go over to my uncle’s house, and apparently saving was not a thing I would do, because I barely remember anything past level two. Or maybe someone deleted my saves? I don’t know. I don’t remember ever playing it at home, either, so I have this feeling that my mom wouldn’t allow it in the house. Did my dad have a secret copy? Couldn’t tell you. But probably yes.

Anyway, the thing I’m trying to get to here is that the second level ends with Duke being captured by aliens, and the third level begins with him being zapped in an electric chair. This is troublesome since if you end level two with less than about 30 health, you’ll die immediately upon entering level three with absolutely no recourse. So then you have to start the stage with no weapons or items, which is a real problem because the first two monsters are pig-cops, and their shotguns can kill you real fast while you try to kick them to death. While I appreciate the setpiece, it really works against the gameplay. I was stuck retrying that first room for like 20 minutes before I was able to play it well enough to survive to the point where I could locate a few health pickups.

So, I lied before. There actually is something that blew my mind in the first level. Throughout the game, you can find women trapped in alien goo, who whisper “Kill me…” if you interact with them. I found one of said ladies in level one, and tried and tried to save her from her sticky prison, but to no avail. As it turns out, you can’t save them. You either leave them to their fate, or honour their wishes and murder them. I think that this confused me because I played the Nintendo 64 version a lot in my youth, and apparently that is the only version where you can free the trapped babes. Weird!

The one other thing that has thrown me for a loop is that Duke 3D is hard. I chose to play on the “Let’s Rock” difficulty level, which is the default and presumably the counterpart to “normal” in other games. And in the first three levels, I died a lot. I know I’m not very good at these old-school shooters, but wow do enemy shots ever hurt a lot! A mid-range shotgun blast from a pig-cop can knock off over 20 of Duke’s health points. The scrub aliens don’t hit quite as hard, but they usually come in groups and have a higher rate of fire, so they can pile it on pretty quick. Also they often have jetpacks, and those guys… man, those guys.

On the other hand, the Switch port has motion control aiming, which is nice. Really good for fine-tuning your aim when the control sticks just aren’t giving you the fine control you need. Also I was playing it during my lunch hour at work and man was that weird. It almost felt like I was doing something wrong, what with all the strippers in level two. I can only imagine what might have happened if someone took a peek at my screen at the wrong moment. Perhaps I ought to stick with A Hat in Time during lunch break.

Aside from my few little quibbles, it has been fun to dip back into Duke 3D for a bit. I’m sure that I’ll have to knock down the difficulty level to easy before I’ll have any hope of finishing it, but… I don’t know that I’ll even play it that much. Even with the intent of playing it through to the end, I have a feeling that this is going to be a “finish the first episode then completely forget about it” kind of game. A fun, nostalgic distraction, but nothing more.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: August 2019

~ Game Over ~

PictoQuest (Switch) – This picross RPG came out of nowhere, and I fell for it so hard. Like, so hard. Truth be told, it’s not really special in any way and is a little too short, but it’s a solid game. The RPG mechanics make things a little more exciting, but thankfully never come even close to getting in the way. Unlike Jupiter’s Picross games, it has more than three music tracks, and some of them are legit bangers. The graphics are cute and colourful, and the puzzle solutions have a vague fantasy theme. It’s good! But there are only like 100 puzzles and I devoured them in no time.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch) – This may be a perfect sequel: all of the good stuff from the first stuck around, and everything less good was either fixed or removed altogether. Hammer durability is gone. You can unlock infinite stocks of common materials. Bosses are somewhat less tedious. Enemy contact damage is gone. I just wish I had more creativity, so that I could truly enjoy the free-build island and post-game. Alas, I don’t really have time for it anyway. Rest assured though, this is definitely one of the best video games of 2019.

Command & Conquer ‘95 (PC) – Remember when I started replaying this a few years ago? I randomly felt the need to pick it up again so I did. And then I cheated to get past the level I was stuck on, which I’m reasonably sure is impossible to clear legitimately (GDI mission 11, if you’re interested). I tried about 25 times, so I feel like I gave it more than a fair shake. Anyway, I went on to clear the rest of the GDI campaign, and I think this marks the first time I’ve finished any C&C campaign. Don’t plan on playing NOD; I may just go into a sequel.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4) – I’ve never had even a slight interest in the Uncharted series, but here we are. I’ve now played through the last one. It’s… perfectly fine. Needed more puzzles. I’m kind of over the “follow-the-grips” style of climbing gameplay these days. Breath of the Wild ruined me by letting me free-climb everything. The shooting parts are also… fine. It seems like trying to stealth your way through is not an actual viable strategy, but rather a way to take out the first two guys of an encounter without getting shot at. It’s like The Last Of Us, where stealth exists, but the developers really just want you to shoot everyone. AMERICA! GUNS!

Peggle (PC) – Technically I only played around half the game, as it was a co-op run, switching off after beating or failing a stage. And… I failed a lot. I’m not great at Peggle. Though I have to say it’s a surprisingly good casual time-waster. We sat and played for four hours straight. Might have been longer if it hadn’t been a work night and I had to go home to bed. 

~ Progress Notes ~

DOOM II (Switch) – Got brickwall’d on “Tricks & Traps”. SO MANY Hell Princes.

Pixel Puzzle Collection (iOS) – 75.6% complete

Pic-A-Pix Pieces (Switch) – 10.5/20 panels complete

Final Fantasy X HD Remaster (PS4) – Sidequesting before entering Sin.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (Switch) – Just plugging away at quests.

Kindergarten (PC) – Completed two storylines.

Superbeat XONiC (Switch) – Did the first planet of mission mode and a bunch of free play.

Bastion (Switch) – Did maybe like seven or eight levels.

Merry Xmas!

And Happy Other Holidays from your good pal, Ryan.

As a Xmas gift to all my loyal reader, here’s a video game review that I wrote in November but didn’t ever get around to proofreading or posting. Enjoy!

Once October rolled around, my plan was to put any games I was currently playing aside and focus on more spooky fare. Then I continued to spend most of my gaming time on Picross games and Monster Hunter anyway. Because I am incorrigible.

I did manage to mash a few spooky games in anyway (see the Monthend Wrap-Up for deets), and one of those games was Hollow. This is a first-person shooter with a sci-fi horror theme, and if I had to review it in a single sentence, it would be this:

What if Dead Space was kinda crappy?

Continue reading Merry Xmas!

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – October 2018

TGISGM! Thank goodness it’s scary games Friday month! I’ve been dying all summer because the sun doesn’t go away until like 10PM and I’m too old to stay up much later than that but now it gets dark super early and I can get some SPOOPS GOIN’!

I’m sorry. That was a really weird sentence. Anyway, since it’s that time of year, I’m going to be sort of rating the games I’ve played on how spooky they are. Like I did back in 2016.

~Game Over~

Mega Man 11 (Switch) – Not Spooky – Torch Man’s stage theme is “wandering around the woods at night” which is a little bit spooky, but less so with all the cartoon robots who live there.

Picross S2 (Switch) – Not Spooky – It’s picross. There may be like, a puzzle of a pumpkin in there somewhere, but it wouldn’t even have a face carved into it. No spooks here.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (Switch) – Not Spooky – Despite being all about monsters -some of which are mildly frightening- there’s nothing particularly spooky here.

Bayonetta (Switch) – Spooky-ish – Freaky lookin’ angels and demons all over, but there’s never really anything scary, you know? Except for the impossibly unbalanced difficulty.

Slayaway Camp (Switch) – Spoopy! – This game does a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of 80’s slasher movies, and then hamming it up to 11. Perfect blend of horror and humour.

Hollow (Switch) – Spooky! – You’re stranded on a derelict spaceship; presumably alone, until you realize there are hordes of mutilated boobie-zombies out to kill you dead! Eek!

Kemono Friends Picross (Switch) – Spooky-ish – It’s very subjective, but I find the whole animal-people theme to be a little creepy. Otherwise, this is way too cheerful to be spooky.

~Now Playing~

Onechanbara Z2: Chaos (PS4) – Spoopy at Best – It’s about zombies and cursed blood and copious gore, but really it’s just too dumb/goofy/cheesecakey to actually be spooky.

Dark Souls (Switch) – Spooky! – Yeah, this one’s a shoo-in for spooks. Have you ever seen the Gaping Dragon? Or any monster from the Painted World of Ariamis? Buuuh. Nightmares!

MGSV: The Phantom Pain (PC) – Not Spooky – There’s that one part with the parasite warehouse that is genuinely creepy and gross, but we passed that chapter months ago.

Spooktober Movies – Week 1?

Puppet Master – Since Netflix is apparently too good now to carry any movies from before 1990 (except for four Friday the 13ths), I took it upon myself to dive into my DVD collection to see what kind of forgotten treasures might be found. I was actually feeling a bit like it was a Return of the Living Dead night, but then The Puppet Master Collection found its way into my hands. A series of nine films that I’d never heard of and never watched. Seemed to be a good way to satisfy my cheesy 80’s horror jones.

The first Puppet Master was released in 1989, so I was mere months away from being a hypocrite. It’s also not an especially good movie. I probably would have been obsessed with it in my early twenties. If you hadn’t guessed, this film is about puppets who come to life and kill people. Oh ho! Only… the murderous puppets are an afterthought at best. There’s a convoluted plot that was boring as heck and barely made any sense, and that’s what the people who made this movie decided to focus on. Not the killer puppets. For some reason.

I would really like to write more about Puppet Master, and I might! It’s perfect for a full article! The thing is, to do that, I’d have to watch it again. And I don’t really want to watch it again. So we’ll see! For now, I’ll leave you with this fun fact: Twice, I accidentally typed out the title of this movie as “Pupper Master” and quite frankly, I think that would be a much better film. Just an hour and a half of dogs doing dog things.

Murder Party – I went home on Thanksgiving night with a little time to spare, and a strong desire to watch a Halloween-styled movie. It was already pretty late, so when Netflix showed me this one, with a runtime of an hour-fifteen, I figured it was a sign from up above. Or, given the season and subject matter, down below?

Murder Party is about a dopey guy who randomly finds an invitation to a, well, murder party, and decides to attend, rather than spending his Halloween watching horror movies and eating candy corn with his asshole cat. He quickly fashions a (rather impressive) suit of knight’s armor from a cardboard box and heads downtown to the party. There, he finds a group of young artists who immediately capture him and reveal that the plan is to kill him as an art project to win some kind of nebulous grant.

It turns out (and was no surprise after the intro) that this is actually a horror-comedy, which certainly helped boost my opinion of it. Quite frankly though, it was a bit of a dud. While there were a number of genuinely funny gags, it spent way too much time making fun of artists. Like, that was the entire middle of the movie. We basically lost the hapless idiot from the beginning for most of the film, as he was gagged and bound while the rest of the cast went on and on about meaningless crap. Then the group begins to unravel (like they do), killing each other and allowing our “hero” to flee so that the film can end on a bloody chase sequence.

Like I said, there are some truly funny parts sprinkled about -I laughed out loud a few times- but for the most part I never really got into it. Probably because I was mostly just playing Picross with the movie on in the background. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad movie; I sure many folks consider this a really fun no-budget slasher parody. I just didn’t really dig the main theme of pretentious douchebags self-destructing, and they made it such an important part of the movie that I can’t just gloss over it in favour of the more appealing parts.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: July 2018

~ Game Over ~

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (PS4) – A free “prologue” for Life is Strange 2. I’m still not entirely clear on whether this will have anything to do with the full game or not.

Mega Man 7 (Switch) – I’m usually pretty hard on MM7, but playing it right after MM8 made me realize that it’s actually not all that bad! Except for Slash Man. He can go suck an egg.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Switch) – Nightmare mode run for true(?) ending.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Switch) – Another replay, Zangetsu-only this time.

Mega Man 2 (Switch) – Wait, Mega Man’s feet are slippery in this one, too? Why do I not remember this? Maybe that’s why I don’t think it’s quite as perfect as MM3.

Mega Man 3 (Switch) – Speaking of which, I did that too.

I Am Setsuna. (Switch) – I’m glad I played it, but something about it felt hollow. Maybe because the team very clearly wanted to make a Chrono Trigger sequel but weren’t allowed the license.

Fran Bow (PC) – The first two chapters of the game are very interesting and spooky, and then it kind of veers off in a completely different fantasy-styled direction before circling back to spooky.

Tales of Berseria (PS4) – It took about 30 hours before the plot finally got interesting and the characters started growing on me. But this may have been Stockholm Syndrome setting in.

Heavy Rain (PS4) – I prefer to try to find the positives in every game I play, but this one… While the high-level story was interesting, pretty much everything else about it was plain ol’ bad.

Mega Man X (Switch) – Yes, I have two portable versions of Mega Man X already, but I never take my 3DS or PSP out with me anymore. Plus, this one comes with all the sequels!

Rockman X (Switch) – The X Legacy Collection allows you to play the Japanese versions of all included games, so… I did that. As it turns out, not much was changed for the localization!

Mega Man X2 (Switch) – Maybe it’s because I play it much less frequently, but X2 is significantly tougher than the original. A little trolly too, in regards to the placement of several power-ups.

Mega Man X3 (Switch) – And then you get to this one, which is ridiculously tough, and even moreso if you’re trying a buster-only run. But at least it gives you a bunch of cool new abilities.

~ Now Playing ~

MGSV: The Phantom Pain (PC) – I bless the rains down in Africa, gonna cover up all of the sounds from my footsteps, ooh-ooh.

Pokémon Quest (Switch) – I’d like to complain about the completely erratic difficulty spikes, but that’s freemium for you! And I’m certainly not paying a cent into this one.

Slain: Back From Hell (Switch) – It’s kind of like if Doom and Castlevania had baby, and then that baby got really into heavy metal. Which is to say I love this game.

Octopath Traveler (Switch) – It’s a little bit too talky, but the battle system is excellent and a ton of fun. Feels a little bit like a more hands-on FFXIII, in a way. (NB: I’m a big fan of FFXIII.)

Soul Blazer (SNES) – I really adore Illusion of Gaia, but had never played its prequel, so I hacked my tiny SNES to do so. It’s quite good! I just need to make some more time for it.

Mega Man X Legacy Collection (Switch) – I’ve been listing the individual games here as I play them, but the new X Challenge mode can’t fit in that way. Short review: it is BONKERS.