Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: December 2023

~ Game Over ~

The Talos Principle 2 (PS5) – Yeah, I played it again. Had to get the platinum trophy on this one, you know?

Super Mario RPG (Switch) – Part of me wants to complain that not enough was changed and playing this remake just felt like going through the motions, but the other part of me says “Shut up, idiot! It’s still a 10/10 game! Just with better music now!” And also the new post-game content was very good, if a little too brief.

Final Fantasy XVI (PS5) – Out of the blue, a DLC expansion was released, so I purchased and played it. It was very cool (if a little short), and the new superboss was incredible! Also, finally finished my Final Fantasy (hard) mode playthrough.

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Minneapolis 2023 – Big Bag o’ Candy

Earlier this year, I went on a little trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota with my family. You can read all about how poorly I ate during said trip here. As something of a follow-up to that post, now I’m going to write about all the candy I bought while I was there!

So, there’s this store called It’s Sugar in the Mall of America. I don’t really know much about it, aside from the fact that it’s a big ol’ candy store. I actually first encountered this establishment when I was in New Jersey last year. In the American Dream mall, It’s Sugar is a three-story-tall paradise with an Oreo-themed café on its top floor. MOA’s version isn’t quite as big, but it’s still basically the promised land for people like me who suffer from an insatiable sweet tooth.

The biggest appeal of this store are the bins upon bins of bulk candy available to mix and match at one’s discretion. Both of my trips to It’s Sugar ended with me buying a bag of assorted gummy candies that was roughly the size of my head. I won’t say exactly how much they cost, but it’s somewhere in the ballpark of fifty American dollars. So, yeah. Look, I’ve never once claimed to be good at money. These bags of candy lasted me weeks though, so the cost was justified enough for me.

Now that you have context, I am going to describe every different type of gummy candy that I selected for my big bag of candy. Because that’s interesting. Right?

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Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: November 2023

~ Game Over ~

Super Mario Bros Wonder (Switch) – Classic Mario, but with enough tweaks and new mechanics to make it feel completely fresh. Most stages have unique Wonder gimmicks, and just about all of them change the stage in a really fun way. My favourite by far are the musical stages, which have enemies singing and bouncing along to the music. Happily played this one to 100% completion.

Mega Man X DiVE Offline (PC) – It’s a lot of fun and I really like the fanservice (of course). However, the story is just so boring and there’s so much dialogue. I’ll keep playing it to 100% because of that “a lot of fun” part.

Mega Man Battle Network (GBA) – There’s something to be said about the simplicity of the first entry in a series. Yes, it lacks the quality of life improvements from the sequels, but it also doesn’t have nearly as many gimmicks layered on top of the core gameplay. I had a great time revisiting it!

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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.

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A Wonderful Rant

Super Mario Bros Wonder is -as anyone could have predicted- a very good video game. Will it stand the test of time? Who knows! But my knee-jerk reaction now that I’ve 100% cleared it is that it’s the best 2D Mario since… Super Mario World, I suppose. It’s almost definitely one that I’ll be replaying on a semi-regular basis.

One of the new gimmicks in SMBWonder are badges. You’ll collect these over the course of the game and equipping them will grant your character some kind of special ability. You can only use one at a time, but you’re free to swap it out at any time on the world map, or if you lose a life in a stage. The abilities that badges grant range from allowing you to hold R to deploy a parachute, to hinting at secrets, to giving you a Super Mario Galaxy-esque spin-jump, to giving you a free super mushroom at the start of every course.

Most of the badges have some kind of practical use, but one stuck out to me as totally weird: the invisibility badge. All that this badge does is make your character invisible. Which makes the game way harder to play, being a platformer that requires a certain amount of precision. I guess maybe it also makes you immune to enemy attacks? I honestly don’t know; I never used the thing outside the two short challenge stages that force you to equip it.

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Of Puzzles and Prometheus

Way back in 2020 I played a video game called The Talos Principle. I’ve written about it many times! I also tend to think about it quite often, as I don’t think that any other video game has ever affected me intellectually quite as much -or at least not in the same way- as The Talos Principle did. Also, it was just a whole lot of fun to play.

The Talos Principle, when observed at a gameplay level, is a first-person puzzle game akin to Portal. It doesn’t have portals, but it does have half a dozen other tools that you use to solve puzzles and progress through test chambers or sorts. From a narrative perspective, through, it couldn’t be more unlike Portal. Portal is mostly silly and has a little existential dread for flavour, but The Talos Principle is an intensely serious discussion of philosophy. Which sounds boring, yes, but it hooked me good and actually got me interested in studying philosophy further. For fun.

So imagine how I must have felt when I learned that Croteam was just a week away from releasing The Talos Principle 2.

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Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: October 2023

~ Game Over ~

Gal Guardians: Demon Purge (Switch) – Ran this one into the ground with the 100% clear. Read many more words about it here! Somewhat spooky.

Pikmin 1 (Switch) – It feels a little rough, coming directly from the incredible Pikmin 4, but man, it’s still such a good game. Would have been nice if Nintendo had added a few of Pikmin 4’s quality-of-life features for this re-release. Oh well! No spooks here.

Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition (PC) – After a little over a year of playing it on and off, it’s finally done! A little grindy, yes, but despite that, it was still pretty fun. And I got a nice, long YouTube series out of it. Hardly spooky at all.

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