Not the JackBest

When I purchased Whipseey and the Lost Atlas a couple weeks ago, I bought JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword at the same time. They were the same price, and both on sale with the same discount applied. I probably should have clued in that they’re by the same developer/publisher.

Indeed, Blowfish Studios is not making the best name for themselves in my book. While I’m somewhat ambivalent about Whipseey (it’s too colourful to be mad at), I can say confidently that I did not especially like JackQuest.

Unlike Whipseey, JackQuest has a little meat to it. But not much, mind you. It took me about an hour and a half to finish. That includes a lot of time being stuck and going in circles because the entire game is one samey-looking dungeon with no direction and one false wall that you must find to move on. That said, JackQuest is a wee little metroidvania, and it does have power-ups, keys, switches, save points, etc, etc. All the Video Game Things you expect, as opposed to Whipseey’s very minimalist design.

While I am mildly annoyed at JackQuest’s whole “here’s a maze, figure it out” design, it’s not technically a flaw. You can roughly navigate by landmarks, and while it takes about half the game to earn it, there is a rudimentary map available. It’s old-school design. I played games like this for years and didn’t knock them because they lacked features that would lead me directly to each point of interest. In a game that was more fun, I might even appreciate the invitation to draw up my own map.

The real problem with JackQuest is that the controls are loosey-goosey, and the physics don’t feel like they make sense. Jack has a really weird gravity to his jumps, and wall-jumping in particular feels imprecise and more difficult than it should be. I think if the developer has spent just a little more time tightening up how Jack moves, it could have increased my enjoyment of this game by a significant margin. Alas.

So what else is left to say? I don’t know… To be honest, JackQuest is largely unmemorable. I’ve forgotten most of the fine details already, and have been left with little more than a foggy memory of being unimpressed. I think the boss fights were alright? There are about four bosses, and they do present a halfway decent challenge. Or at least the spider boss did, as I remember needing to retry it a few times before I defeated it. The rest are part of that foggy blur.

Of course, I would not recommend JackQuest. I spent four dollars on it, so sure, I got my money’s worth in gameplay. But it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. Just a middling plod through tropes, with nothing really special or unique to share. It isn’t a bad game, but with so many similar options available there’s really no reason to bother with JackQuest. Just pony up a few more dollars for Hollow Knight instead. It costs only slightly more and is a vastly better video game.

Let’s Laugh At Americans

I’ve never really been a fan of King of the Hill. I would sometimes watch it (or have it on in the background while playing video games) on Sunday nights when it was on between all the other shows I wanted to watch. But it was never something I would have said I liked.

Which makes one wonder why I’ve recently decided to dive in and see how far into the series I can get before getting tired of it. There are thirteen seasons! I would have guessed ten at most.

To the point, I’ve finished the first season, and it’s been… okay. I like the idea of exploring how ignorant Americans are, but it isn’t terribly funny. Mostly just groan-worthy and/or uncomfortable. That said, it seems like there’s one exceptionally funny punchline in each episode. The best example, and easily my favourite moment in the series so far is this line:

Maybe it’s just me, but I cracked up hard at that. I hurt myself laughing. It’s not the funniest line, but the whole scene really made it work. Something about the perfectly flat delivery and how unexpected it was. Peggy immediately leaving without saying a word was the perfect response.

Will season two have a similar moment? Will it have more than one? I don’t know, but I’m sure as heck probably going to find out soon eventually.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: January 2020

Remember back in the day when I used to write a little blurb for each of these? I don’t think it’s going to be a regular thing again, but… Man, I played a large variety of video games in January. Considering that AGDQ sapped up a lot of my free time and school is eating away the rest of it… You start to realize that most of these games are either very short, or carried over from last month.

~ Game Over ~

Mega Man X (SNES) – The opening video game of the year, as per usual. Short writeup here.

Mega Man Legends (PS1) – I really do adore this game. Sadly, every time I go back to replay it, the… unfortunate control scheme gets harder and harder to re-acclimatize to. And the stupid racing game is impossible but I want the Shining Laser. Wah wah wah gamer tears.

Army Men Air Attack (PS1) – I kind of wish I’d played this back when it was new, as I think I would have really enjoyed it then. Looking at it now, it’s an amusing little curio almost certainly lost to time. What I found most odd about it is that there’s a massive difficulty spike right in the middle of the game. If you can tough it through missions six to nine, it’s smooth sailing to the end. Also the co-pilot voice clips are super repetitive and annoying.

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The Further Adventures of Ryan the Wannabe Chef

So I’m playing Ring Fit Adventure this morning, and I’m taking a moment to read through all the descriptions of the various food items that you can collect. Most of them are neat little trivia bits about each item, and I like learning things about foods. I get to caramel, and it says something along the lines of “a sweet confection made by boiling milk and sugar” and I’m like Hey! I can boil milk and sugar!

And that’s how I came to make my very own home-made caramel for the very first time.

As you can see, it’s not quite the right colour, and it came out a bit chunky. But it tasted really good! I put a bunch in my coffee and it was just like I was drinking an overpriced Starbucks beverage!

The thing I learned today, is that when you’re making something for the first time, you should probably follow a recipe and not just wing it. It turned out well enough, because I’ve made sauces before and have a general sense of how it goes down, but imagine how much better it could have been! Next time. Next time I’ll do it right.

Tim Horton’s Dream Donuts!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently gorged myself on three donuts in a single day. A single sitting, even! Despite all my recent efforts not to be, I am still a food monster at heart. I suppose it’s just not something that a person can get away from.

Just know that my gut took this trio of bullets for you, dear reader.

I made this “heroic sacrifice” in the name of being able to provide a timely (they’ve only been out for like two weeks as of today) review of all three of Tim Horton’s new Dream Donuts. While I don’t have any solid evidence to support this claim (and I’m not walking down the street to Tim’s), I assume that these fancy-looking new donuts are around for a limited time only. Hence why I didn’t have time to waste eating them all in a more reasonable timeframe. If they do turn out to be permanent additions… well that’s just egg on my face, then.

It’s important to note that I qualified the Dream Donuts as “fancy-looking”, because at least 70% of their appeal is in the marketing. I’m going to give you the big spoiler right here: these are stock-standard donuts with a little extra zazz added to get you to pay a premium for them. And people wonder why I have such a sour opinion of marketing in general.

Let’s start where I did: The Chocolate Truffle. This is literally just a double chocolate donut (which has been on the menu since the Stone Age), which is a chocolate cake donut with chocolate glaze. What makes this one cost a dollar more than the standard edition? There’s a floof of chocolate fudge icing in the hole now.

In the Chocolate Truffle’s defense… double chocolate is probably my favourite regular donut from Tim’s. None of them are very good, but at least this one has twice as much weak chocolate flavour, and I prefer the texture and density of a cake donut. The added fudge icing is also a nice little bonus, because it was actually packed with flavour and made the whole experience all that much better.

This is all said with the caveat that my Chocolate Truffle was not prepared as advertised. I only learned this after the fact, but this Dream Donut is supposed to be sliced lengthwise (like a bagel) and smeared with more chocolate frosting in-between (like a bagel). One one hand, I feel like this extra step in preparation would have more fully justified the premium price of the donut. On the other hand, I still had two more donuts to eat after this, so I’m okay with having missed out on all that extra sugar. So it was a flub and Tim’s should be rebuked for it, but it didn’t actually bother me personally.

Moving onto the Strawberry Confetti donut, we have what appears to be just another vanilla dip, but with the pink turned up to 11. Actually, that’s only partly true, because the vanilla icing is actually strawberry. The assorted varieties of sprinkles are very aesthetically pleasing to me, and that floof of icing in the middle is… well, I don’t feel strongly about it either way. I guess the donut would look incomplete without it.

Strawberry Confetti is my personal favourite of the Dream Donut trio, mostly because it’s the most pleasing to look at. Since Tim’s entire catalog of donuts is pretty bland as far as flavour goes, aesthetic appeal is really what you’re buying them for. I did enjoy that the icing was strawberry-tinged, which also adds some points. Though I’m docking it the same number of points because this should have been filled with strawberry jam as well, but that’s not the case. Huge missed opportunity there.

Lastly, and most definitely leastly is the Dulce de Leche. Already I’m not a fan of this, because how am I supposed to like something that I cannot pronounce? Here we have a typical filled donut from Tim’s: yeast donut with sugar sprinkled on the outside, and a glob of goo in the middle. Dulce de Leche changes it up by making it cinnamon sugar on the outside, then adding the signature floof of icing on top.

Aside: To anyone who knows things about food: What is the icing glob on top called? I don’t have a hot clue, so I’ve been calling it a floof, but I’m sure there’s a real word for it. I would really like to know the official term, even though I’ll surely forget it within a matter of minutes.

Back in topic: Dulce de Leche is no good. You would think that the cinnamon sugar would win me over, since it basically turns this otherwise boring donut into a ginormous mini-donut. And it is almost exactly that (it’s not a cake donut, so…) for the first couple bites! But then you hit the floof, and it tastes weird. Then you hit the mysterious glob in the middle, and it tastes even weirder. And the two weird flavours combine their powers to just completely overwhelm the pleasant cinnamon sugar and ruin the donut completely. Sad face.

Because I had no idea what “dulce de leche” means or even what flavour it was supposed to have, I actually did a tiny amount of research on this one. Dulce de leche, in fact, is sweetened and boiled milk. It’s supposed to be reminiscent of caramel, but not actually caramel. Well, no more wondering why it was so underwhelming.

It’s probably obvious to you by this point, but I really wouldn’t recommend hustling down to your local Horton’s to get you somma these. While they’re jazzed up a bit more than usual, they’re still just Tim Horton’s donuts, and thus not really worth spending money on. If you really need to buy one, I’d say the Strawberry Confetti is the way to go. I’m also saying that from the perspective of someone who really likes how explosively pink it is, and would rather keep one around as a decoration than actually eat the thing.

Ryan’s Big Weekend Adventure!

You know what I didn’t do over last weekend? Study enough.

“Well duh” you all say.

What I did do, however, was all sorts of other things. I want to write about them briefly.

Saturday I got a haircut. There’s a story there, but it’s probably fairly embarrassing for a party who is not me, which makes me feel like I ought not to tell it. So I won’t. Sorry for the tease.

After breakfast I did some coursework for a while. Good old responsible me. I took a break after a couple hours to go visit with my grandparents. They gave me several tins of baking and couple jars of soup. Nice! There’s another mildly embarrassing story here that I don’t think I’m entitled to tell to the internet at large. Aren’t you upset that I’ve gotten so considerate in my old age?

I went back home to do some more book learning, which lasted about an hour. All in all, I made it through about a quarter of the homework questions assigned in a cumulative three hours. That’s not great. I hate school and cannot wait for it to be done forever.

Over the course of the weekend, I “snuck in” just enough video games time to finish playing the Squaresoft PS1 classic, Threads of Fate. You’ve probably never heard of this game, because Squaresoft put out like a billion RPGs on the PS1, so a few of them had to fall through the cracks.

Threads of Fate is an alright game. It’s a dual-protagonist game, and the plot isn’t the most creative, but it’s fun. One character has you working towards world domination, while the other is searching for a way to revive his friend. The characters are mostly archetypes, but they have big personalities and a really good script, so I ended up liking most of them quite a lot. Also the soundtrack is darn good, and the graphics are top-tier for a 3D game on the original Playstation.

However! The gameplay is… questionable. The controls, physics, and hit detection are all just a little bit off. This makes any precision-platforming sections much harder (and frustrating) than they ought to be. Combat is mostly a non-issue, but several bosses are stupidly hard until you figure out the right rhythm to beating them. Overall, it’s not a game that needs a remaster so much as a tune-up.

I also frittered away a whole three hours on Pokémon GO on Sunday, as it was January’s Community Day. Got a whole stable full of shiny Piplups, and that’s really about all. While I was out, I also got to try all of the fancy new “dream donuts” that Tim Horton’s is currently selling. I’ll type up a full thing about them (probably), but the TLDR is that they were not so good that I was able to justify having eaten three donuts in a single sitting. Oink oink.

After all that, I ended Sunday evening the same way I always do: playing an hour of Rocksmith, then watching TV while I do my laundry. This week was devoted catching up on some AGDQ runs, while at the same time trying to fill out a little bit of my Pokédex in Pokémon Shield. I’m at 387 of 400. Almost there!

And that was my weekend. If you think I sound like an incredibly boring individual… you’re right! And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Insufficient Whippage

I’m not the kind of person who will base a game’s value on how long it takes to beat it. That’s a silly way to measure it. I used to think that way, though, back when everyone else did, and sometimes that mindset does manage to creep back in.

Enter Whipseey and the Lost Atlas. This is a cute little game that I’ve had on my eShop wishlist since whenever it was released. At a measley $8, it’s actually a wonder why I didn’t just purchase it right away. After all, it’s a platformer that looks strikingly like a Kirby game, so you would think that I’d be the target demo here.

But no, I waited until it was half-price, and despite my greatest efforts, I can’t help but feel like I overpaid. Whipseey is exactly what it appears to be: a straightforward little platformer where your key verbs are “jump” and “whip.” This is fine. The controls are fairly solid, and I really do appreciate the simple, colourful graphics. That’s where my praise ends.

Whipseey doesn’t really seek to excel or innovate in any way. And I can relate to that; you could say the same thing about me. But the problem is that it doesn’t make for the most fun game. Once you’ve jumped over a hole, whipped an enemy, and then whip-grappled over a hole, you’ve seen pretty much everything the game has to offer. There are no power-ups, no gimmick stages, no new abilities. Whipseey almost never even uses its mechanics to do interesting things. There are exactly two screens where you need to bounce off a monster to clear a gap, and one screen where you need to use more than a single grapple point. I guess the TLDR of it is that Whipseey has a lot of untapped potential, and that makes it more disappointing than outright bad. Which adjective is worse is subjective.

The other thing about Whipseey is that it is short. Like, 30 minutes long at the absolute maximum. It’s five stages long, and each stage is comprised of about a dozen rooms and a boss. When I got to the end, I quite literally did a double-take and exclaimed “What? That’s it!?” I can’t in good conscience fault Whipseey for being so short, as Kirby’s Dream Land is roughly the same length, and I quite enjoy that game. The problem lies in the fact that it’s somehow even shallower than Kirby’s Dream Land, a game in which you can literally just fly over pretty much everything.

Did I at least enjoy my brief time playing Whipseey? It’s actually hard to say. I’ve been mulling it over for a while, and on one hand, there’s barely anything there. The level design is mostly the same throughout each world, really only beginning to get creative in world 5. On the other hand, it’s colourful and responsive and seems to be very competently built. So I guess that my opinion is thus: it is an objectively fine game, but subjectively it feels very much lacking.

While I’m obviously dancing around having to say “I didn’t like it” as much as I can, it’s not hard to say that I absolutely wouldn’t recommend it. Unless you’re buying it as Baby’s First Video Game. And I’m not being dismissive or elitist when I say that. I genuinely think this game would be best suited for a kid who’s new to video games. Anyone else will likely just be bored.

And it just really bothers me that Whipseey is spelled with two E’s. Weird.

Brain Drain

I’m back in school again… in the middle of January. Thankfully it’s not an especially long walk between work and campus, because man is it way too cold to be outside. (Truth be told, I usually have to wait longer for the bus than that walk takes.)

What’s really killing me, though, is that it’s only been one week and my brain is already fried from the extra usage. Like, by Tuesday night I was already completely exhausted, and it hasn’t let up. Maybe the weekend will help, but I’m not overly hopeful (since I have to do a bunch of coursework.)

So yeah. Blah. This is a dumb post with no point. I’m now LiveJournalling.

Happi Furaidae!

This is going to be my anthem for 2020.

On a related note, I just learned that WordPress doesn’t support Japanese characters. At least not natively, and I really don’t care enough to go look for a plugin that I’ll need exactly once. Weird!

How Else Would I Start The Year?

It’s the beginning of a new year, and three days from the start of Awesome Games Done Quick 2020. So I’ve got new year traditions and video game speedruns on my mind, which can only mean one thing:

It’s time to play Mega Man X.

I’m sure I mention it every year, but I like for MMX to be the first game I play through every year. I also really want to get myself to a point where I can finish it in under an hour. That said, I haven’t played it in exactly one year, so… I was a little rusty when I did my annual run yesterday.

Before we get into it, I should also note that I play what I like to call the 99% run. Which is to pick up all the upgrades in the game except for the hadouken, because it’s a pain and very slow to get. I don’t dare run any% because I need all those hearts and armor parts. I’m very bad at the final boss fights.

I reset not one minute into my run because I got a little too excited and tried to get a quick kill on the first bee blader, but apparently my mashing technique is much too slow, and I just died. Whoops. Maybe I ought to just try to play quickly instead of very fast.

Things actually got worse on the second attempt. I died to both chill Penguin and Launch Octopus because I was being stupid. I also feel down a hole in Chill Penguin’s stage, but that one was at least partly because of the Switch Pro controller’s mushy d-pad. I was trying to jump over the hole with the ride ride armor, but the game instead had me jump out of the ride armor, which threw me off and I ended up in the hole. It was dumb. Real dumb.

The other really big oops was when I frigged up getting the arm parts in Flame Mammoth’s stage. I thought, oh no big deal I’ll just get them from Zero later. But then I was in Boomer Kuwanger’s stage and I couldn’t charge Shotgun Ice to get to the heart tank, forcing me to replay nearly the whole stage. That was a pretty massive time loss.

I actually got through the Sigma stages pretty cleanly. Bosspider was nicer than ever, and didn’t even throw any babies at me. Then I got killed bu D-Rex because I always get killed by D-Rex. Don’t know why, but I just can’t manage that fight.

By the time I got to the final showdown, I only had 1.5 of four sub tanks full, and decided that I was already over my hour, so I spent three minutes grinding caterpillars for health drops. Then I had the best Velguarder fight of my life, a sloppy Sigma fight, and a halfway decent fight against Wolf Sigma. I only ended up needing two sub tanks, so that’s something to consider for my next run.

My final time came in at 1:07:14. Not a horrible time by any means, but I know I can do better. Four deaths is a lot, and I should have been able to avoid all of them. We’ll see what 2021 brings!