Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Fun

All and asundry

heyboohey
Qadir is hotter than the burning sun.

I want to find a new game, but I haven’t. Not really. I’ve dabbled in Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York by Draw Distance and–by the way, the name irritates me every time I see it because it’s so pretentious. A colon and a dash? Please. Anyway, I’ve never played any of the other VTM games even though it should be my jam (love vamps!) because they’re old. It’s old. One game thus far with a sequel being teased. I was gifted the game by Ian and decided to give it a try the other night. There are three clans from which you can choose (classes, if you will), two of the three which intrigued me. The anarchist class and the artistic/lover class. The third class is the blue blood (wealthy) class, which leaves me cold. I will try it at some point, probably, especially as it’s the only female character of the three, but I have no interest in it.

I started with the anarchist, naming him yanluo–the Chinese god of the underworld. I never capitalize names in games and I don’t know why. After roughly fifteen minutes, I started over again as the artist, naming him gamab–the African god of death. Sense a theme? The basic story is the same. Oh, it’s an interactive graphic novel, by the way. All the characters are impossibly hot, but that’s to be expected because they’re vampires. Well, there’s one who isn’t because he belongs to the Nosferatu clan, which is the hideous monster clan.

It starts with a mysterious vampire (I presume) talking to you at the beginning and explaining that some powerful vampire had died. Then it goes back to how you became a vamp in the first place. It’s a different story for each character, but it ends up the same. You get turned, your sire deserts you, and the *sigh* Sheriff, Qadir, comes to clean things up and whisk you away. I’m sighing because he is yuuuuuuuuuumy. I was Googling the game for reasons and there are quite a few people thirsting for him.

I like the game. I’ll try the blue blood character at some point, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll play it. It’s interesting, but none of the dialogue choices are ones I’d choose. It’s the bane of dialogue-driven games, unfortunately. One of the choices is usually close enough and I haven’t had a situation where all three choices are completely off. While I like it, however, I just don’t have much compunction to play it. There’s no burning desire so we’ll see if I actually go back to it.

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To Hades with the devil

who's a good boy?
Cerberus is best doggo ever!

I’m still playing Hades by Supergiant Games. Still think it’s a terrific game that is out of my reach. I recently timed how long it took me to do each floor, and it’s 15 minutes for the first floor, 15 minutes for the second floor, and 30 minutes for the third floor. Each floor is a grind though I can whiz through the first floor by now.

Side note: There is an interesting system of giving Nectar to the different characters you meet and they give you a Keepsake in return. Each of the Keepsakes have a different benefit and you can level up each Keepsake the longer you wear it. You can only have one on at a time, and you can only switch them after each floor (if you buy a certain item). That’s my M.O. I switch them out after each floor. There’s also mini-achievements in the game that you have to do in order to get rewards. One is to wear each of the Keepsakes at least once. I have ignored the Keepsakes of many of the Olympian gods because theirs are specific to them and their boons. As I wrote in my past post about this game, some of the gods have clearly superior boons (Zeus and Ares especially).

The third floor of Hades might be my hard stopping point. I don’t die on it any longer, but it takes so much time, effort, and resources to get through it. It’s so fucking tedious, and room after room of spear guys and bow guys is boring as hell. Also, so much twitch reflexes needed. So. Much. I have four total revives (death defiers) on the third floor if I haven’t lost any of them prior (and at this point, I shouldn’t. The fourth is from a Keepsake, and I only put it on after the second floor), and I’m usually down to none by the time I’m done with the third floor boss.

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Brute-forcing Hades

So. Hades by Supergiant Games. What a great game. It’s addictive with that ‘just one more run’ feel to it. It looks great, feels great, and sounds great. And I’m thinking of quitting. Why? I touched about it in my last post about the game and would like to expand on it here.

Side note: It’s going to sound familiar because I had the same issues with Children of Morta by Dead Mage, another great game that I quit cold turkey for similar reasons.

Look. I know balancing a game is hard especially if you’re making a game that is based on difficulty to a certain extent.

(Do NOT mention FromSoft and Souls games. Damn.)

But, my pet peeve in any game is throwing tons of mobs at the player in the name of difficulty. I hate, hate, hate it because I think it’s lazy, boring, and because as someone with terrible reflexes, it’s very stressful. And not in the fun way. I think many of the criticisms for Dark Souls II were overblown, but the one I agree with was that they threw way too many mobs at the player as a way of artificially inflating the difficulty.

What’s more, it’s usually the same enemies over and over again, which makes it boring on top of frustrating. I do not mind the same enemies for the same floor, but this game really overloads the type of enemies for each floor and many of them are ones in which twitch reactions are important. I don’t do twitch reactions, so it’s really frustrating to me.


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The importance of not being too earnest

There has been a trend in indie games in the past decade or so to make heartwarming games that have heartfelt narratives. In general, I approve of this trend because why not have more emotions instead of just stab, stab, stabbing everyone? It’s not a coincidence, I don’t think, that it’s indie devs who are cutting this pathway and not the triple A devs. Anyway, one of the first games I played that fit into this category was Gone Home by Fullbright. It was a mystery puzzle game that had the protagonist going home and finding everyone gone. You find out by picking items up and reading descriptions, then piecing together the story. It turns out that your younger sister is gay, and the story is quite heartbreaking.

Or at least it should be. I was eager to play the game because it had received universally high praise across the board. People were giddy about the representation and the story so I was eager to dive in. I was…underwhelmed to say the least. First, I have to say that my computer at the time couldn’t handle the game and would shut down after an hour or two of me playing it. The game wouldn’t save, so I’d have to start over again. And again. No matter what I did before my computer shut down, it wouldn’t save. I fully admit that probably biased me towards not enjoying the game.

However, I must also note that while I was playing it, I had the feeling of ‘is this it?’ in the back of my mind the whole time. Not that the story wasn’t compelling. Not that I wasn’t happy to have representation in games. It’s just that I couldn’t stop thinking that I’d read similar stories in YA literature. I realize it’s a different medium and it hadn’t been done before in video games, but it still fell flat to me. I was glad it existed, but it really didn’t do much for me.

A parallel of that is a game I recently called If Found by Dreamfeel. It’s about a trans teen (late teens) in rural Ireland and the travails of her daily life. It’s a short game and can be finished in an hour, and I like the mechanic of erasing things. The story is sad and familiar, but at the same time, it just….I don’t know. It felt slightly hollow for me. But I’m not a trans teen who’s feeling isolated by her gender so I don’t think I’m qualified to comment on that aspect. It’s also a game I’m glad exists, and I hope there are trans teens who play it and feel seen.


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Hades is one hell of a good time

In my quest for the next meaty game I can sink my teeth into, there have been misses and there has been one game I’ve been keeping my eye on. It’s called Hades, and it’s a rogue-lite-like by Supergiant Games. Supergiant Games in an indie company that is beloved in the indie community as it were. Their previous games include Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre. All three games were hailed when they came out, and I’ve tried each of them. I’m sure you can tell that I did not fall in love with them by the tone of what I’ve written, and you would be right. I tried. Honestly, I gave at least the first two a fair shake. I could see why they were held in such high regards, but neither of them clicked with me. The third just wasn’t my type of game at all, which I knew before I bought it.

I will say that each game looks gorgeous. Supergiant Games does aesthetics well, and while you can tell an SG game by the look of it, they change it up with each game. They all have vivid color palettes and a dreamy-like look to the graphics. From memory and a few stills, Bastion has earthy tones, Transistor is pastel-y, and Pyre has a more intense but darker color palette. Hades is just bright (but with the same richness of colors). I love the cartoony without being cartoonish feel to the characters (another staple of the games) and I love the theme of this game. I was obsessed with mythology when I was younger, so this is a nice way to scratch that itch.

I gave all three of their prior games more time than I normally would because they were so well-regarded in the indie community. I wanted desperately to like them, but I didn’t. Or rather, I didn’t feel compelled to keep playing. I thought each game was well made and could absolutely see why people were gaga over them. I couldn’t make myself like them, however, and I reluctantly moved on from each. Each time, I felt as if I were the problem, not the game, as if it were a personal failing that I couldn’t really get into the games.

This is the reason I was apprehensive when picking up Hades. In fact, I avoided it for a bit because I was worried that I would feel that way yet again. This game is more beloved than the others, if that’s possible, garnering outstanding scores across the board. The worst Metacritic score is 8.5. That’s the worst. I did watch a YouTuber try it out and liked what I saw, but who knew if it’d be the same when I actually played it? Still. I needed a game and it recently came out of Early Access. That meant it was on sale, so I picked it up. I was hoping it’d be like Binding of Isaac: Rebirth in that I’d be able to play it endlessly despite frustrations with it. BoI: R is far from a perfect game, but there’s something really comforting about playing it.


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Mental health and gaming

This has been a shit week. Yesterday, for a brief moment, there was the exhilarating news that the remastered/remake of Demon’s Souls (by FromSoft, but the remake is being done by Bluepoint games) was going to be on PC. That brightened my entire week, and I was so stoked. I mean, look at it.

If you know anything about the game and even if you don’t, you gotta admit it looks amazing. If you look very closely at the end, you’ll see it says it’s coming to the PC. And there was much rejoicing! What a boost on an otherwise shitty day (well, the day itself wasn’t shitty, but that’s not the point).

Then, later in the evening, it all came undone. It turns out that it was NOT coming to the PC, no how, no way. Nuh uh, why would you think so never mind the text that said it would actually come to the PC? Oh, that? That was human error a rep of Sony said. Was never meant to be! Look over there. *flees*

Ok, that wasn’t exactly what happened, but it’s how my brain interpreted it. The human error comment is real but the rest is just head canon. What Sony said in the walkback  was that the text in THE ACTUAL GAMEPLAY TRAILER was human error and that the remake of Demon’s Souls was a PS5 exclusive. Period.

To which I say, bullshit. Why? For several reason. One, the push for Dark Souls on the PC played a significant role in catapulting the series to the lofty heights it enjoys today. Two, it wouldn’t have been in the text if it wasn’t a consideration. Three, because I want it to be bullshit.

Look. I know they were in a hard place when this snafu happened. The hype the PC announcement created could not be put back in the box. PC gamers (and I am one) are rabid about our PCness and our gaming. Souls fans are on another level. So, yeah. I can see how they would be cringing at this point. Let’s face it. There’s no satisfactory response except, “Why, yes, it’s coming to the PC.”

Here’s what I think happened. A Demon’s Souls remake is big. Fans have been clamoring for one for years. Screaming for it. Pleading for it. Offering their first born children for it. I don’t think it’s a leap to say that it’s one of the top two things most requested by FromSoft fans* and with the arrival of the PS5, that seemed like a perfect time for the remake to be released.

Given this as a backdrop, it makes sense that Sony would want it as a PS5 exclusive/launch game. I don’t blame them for selling their consoles however they can. My theory is that they wanted it to be an exclusive for a year or so (which is more or less the timing of exclusives) before announcing the PC launch.

At least, I hope that’s the case. If it’s not, then I guess I will not be playing Demon’s Souls for the rest of my life, which is sad. Or, I’ll do what I did for Bloodborne–buy a PS4 (PS5 in this case) years later at a ridiculously low price in order to play one game.

Anyway. Back to the shitty week part. One way I can tell how depressed I’m getting is what games I play or more importantly, don’t. Oh wait. We have to go back because that’s the way I roll. I am picky about the media I consume in any form. I’ve written about this in the past so I’m not going to rehash the details. Suffice to say it’s difficult to find things I like/click with, and I don’t gel with far more things than I do. When I do, I  play the hell out of them but it takes me forever to get there.

Actually, that’s me in general. It takes me a lot of energy to do anything even something I enjoy and if I’m not enjoying it, I abandon it pretty damn quickly. So in the case of gaming, it takes me forever to actually buy a game. Unless there’s a demo that I immediately like such as Spiritfarer.

Ah, Spiritfarer. Can we take a minute so I can reminisce about how much I adore this game? Ok, minute over.

I try to give each game a fair shake, but I know myself. If something doesn’t grab me within five or ten minutes, it’s never going to do so. You may think Dark Souls is the exception to the rule, but it’s not. While I ended up hating the game by the end of the first playthrough, it had me grabbed the entire time.

On my best days, I can try a new game and see what I think of it. On my worst days, however, I don’t have the energy for that. I know it sounds very twee and precious, but, yes, I need energy to try a new game. Just like I need energy to, say, go to the grocery store (not these days ‘coz I’m not going there no way no how) or make dinner.

On the days when I just can’t, there are games I keep in my back pocket.

Here’s another monkey in the wrench. Is that the phrase? It is now. The Souls series used to be my go-to, specifically Dark Souls III. Ever since my two non-plat runs, however, I’ve been on a break of sorts from the Souls games. Note I say that I have two of the plats. I do not have the plat for Dark Souls II for a few reasons. I started with the original game because that’s what Krupa (of RKG) was doing. Then, I moved to DS III because that’s my favorite of the three. Then, I was completely wiped out and done with it. I put aside all the games indefinitely and have only now started diving back into them again. And by them, I mean the third game.

I’m currently re-watching a few Let’s Play of the original game, and I kinda want to play again. I started up the third game again and it’s feeling good. I’m watching a playthrough of the second game and, well, it’s complicated. I want to play it again, but I know if I do, I’ll try to not-plat it. I don’t want to not-plat it, mind you, but it’s just how I am.

Anyway! The one game I can play no matter what is Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.** I’ve put so many hours into it–no, not gonna tell you how many–that I could play it in my sleep. There are a few new rooms even now which is interesting, but it’s as familiar to me as my skin. I would like to note there is going to be another update soon. I’m reaching the point of new content fatigue, but I know I’ll play it, anyway.

Here’s the time when casual games really stand out. When I can’t handle learning a new ‘hardcore’ game, I can fall back on a solitaire game or a hidden object game and still get a gaming fix without putting too much effort into it. I used think it weird that I would flip back and forth between hardcore and casual games on the regular, but I’m fine with it now. It’s a nice way to unwind on a day when I’m stressed out, anxious, or just plain distressed.

I still can’t wait for Elden Ring, though.

 

 

 

*BB II is number one. Not going to happen, my friends.

**Obligatory yes I know that’s not the current iteration of the game but it’s the one I want it to be.

Knives Out (two reviews)–part two

I am reviewing Knives Out, the very popular Amazon movie by Rian Johnson that has been talked about ad nauseam on social media. The first half of my review is here, and this is the second part of the brutally honest review. Not coincidentally, I’ll be talking about the second half of the movie, which is where everything really went to hell and back. Let’s take it from the end of my last post.

I looked up Rian Johnson while I took a break from the movie. That’s when I found out his first movie was Brick and everything fell into place. It was moody and dripping with atmosphere, and it was pretentious as hell. It was raved about, and I found it highly overrated. I didn’t want to watch the second half of the movie; I really didn’t. However, I felt a push inside to do so. Why? For a few reasons. One, I was tired of not being able to talk about the hot new thing. I don’t like to bash things I haven’t seen/heard/read, etc. Two, my OCD traits do not like to let things go unfinished. I have, obviously, but it really makes me uncomfortable. Three, I was doubting myself. The chatter for this movie was so overwhelmingly positive, I had to be missing something, right? The game was going to pull something out of its ass in the second half that would totally redeem it. RIGHT?????

I was, alas, too optimistic. I pretty much knew how the rest of the movie was going to go within the first five/ten minutes of the movie (minus a few twists and turns), and I thought, “Surely it can’t be this obvious, can it?” I read that Rian Johnson implored people not to give away the twists of the movie which made me snort out loud. I’ll get to all that later–if I remember.

Here’s the thing. The movie doesn’t hold together if you think about the individual aspects. In addition, it’s very much a popcorn movie. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it has aspirations of being above that station and is talked about in lofty terms. If I had gone into it with the mentality of ‘this is a B movie with an outstanding cast’ I might not have been as hard on it as I was going in thinking it’s a fantastic ensemble movie with a mile-a-minute thrills.


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Knives Out (two reviews)–part one

I heard tell of this movie called Knives Out by Rian Johnson, an Amazon original. All the rave reviews about how incredible it was. All I knew was it was an ensemble cast murder mystery, which should be up my alley. Somewhat. I LOVE Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot with all my heart despite knowing how problematic the books are. I’ve read each of them at least three times and up to dozens. On the other hand, while I adore David Suchet’s depiction of Poirot and think Hugh Fraser, Philip Jackson, and Pauline Moran are incredible as Captain Hastings, Chief/Inspector Japp, and Miss Lemon, I have to think of them as a completely different thing than the books.

Anyway. This is my longwinded way of saying that I watched he movie. Against my will, actually, since I tend not to like movies that other people rave about. But, I kept hearing how fantastic it was, and I decided what the hell. I didn’t know much about it except that it was an ensemble cast with Daniel Craig in it.

I will tell you how I felt about it, and I will do it in two different ways. The first is the glossy review I’d write if it was for a publication of repute. The second will be my brutally honest opinion that I wouldn’t tell anyone because I’m always wary about how my weird my opinions are. In addition, I know how beloved this movie is, and, well….Yeah. First up:


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Spiritfarer is my GOTY so far

atul in his first form.
Hello, Uncle Atul. Want to board my boat?

In a year that has blown all the chunks all over the place AND has thus far had nary a word from FromSoft on Elden Ring, Spiritfarer by Thunder Lotus Game has blown into my life like a breath of fresh air. I tried the demo which was fifteen minutes long, and I immediately fell in love with the game. It’s bittersweet, lovely, charming, and very emotional. Last week, I wrote about my issues with the game, but emphasized that they did not take away from the game overall.

I will note that there’s one additional issue I have with the game and this was a rather big one. There were two passengers whom I could not stand. I realize that it’s part of the bigger picture–not everyone in our lives is someone we like. Also, there’s a reason Stella has run into this wide array of people (something I found out in a newsletter but was not made clear in the game). While I understand it on an intellectual level, I still reacted to these two characters with a visceral dislike.

The first was one of two brothers. Bruce and Mickey. Mickey was a water buffalo who didn’t talk. It became clear that he was comatose and his brother, a hummingbird, was caretaking for him. Bruce was a huge asshole, and I actively avoided him as much as I could. In addition, the rest of the passengers’ moods were negatively affected by the brothers as they all ‘felt bullied (ha)’ by Mickey. His story was really sad, but it didn’t balance out how incredibly unpleasant Bruce was. When I took them to the EverDoor, I was so relieved to get rid of them. I felt some sorrow for them because of their story, but I was happy to see the back of them.

The other was Elena, a dog. I think a greyhound or something similar. Something lithe and sleek. She’s an ascetic who is very monk-like in her Spartan attitude. She’s also a complete asshole. She was a teacher in life, and she took  pleasure in breaking her students who she viewed as beneath her. She’s the one who assigns you timed events, and if you don’t do them to her specifications, she berates you. I felt bullied by her, and I stayed away from her as much as possible. Yes, there was a poignant reason why she was the way she was, but at that point in the game, I didn’t care. She’s the passenger who didn’t like to be hugged, by the way, not to anyone’s surprise.

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My Spiritfarer wishlist

all the sheep.
So much work, so much time.

I finished Spritfarer last night. I’m not ready to talk about that because I need to digest it, so I want to talk about the issues I had with the game instead. Before I do that, however, I want to note that this is in contention for my GOTY. I mean, it is my GOTY so far, and I have a hard time believing that something is going to replace it because no way Elden Ring is releasing this year. Sigh.

::pours one out for Elden Ring::

What I’m saying is that it’s a fantastic game. I adore it. It made me laugh, and it made me cry, cry, and cry again. I poured over forty hours into it in a little more than a week. I would hop on to play for half an hour or an hour and five hours later….It’s fucked with my sleep even more, but at least it’s something I wanted to be doing. I 100%ed the game, and I found most of the secrets. There are a few chests and such I didn’t uncover, but otherwise, I know every inch of this game.

I say all that because I want to emphasize that my wishlist for Spiritfarer (by Thunder Lotus Games) is not about hating the game but about wanting to make it even better. No game is perfect, and it’s my nature to discuss everything about something I love–including the flaws. It’s the way I roll so here we go.

One of my biggest issues with the game is the platforming. I’ve said before (and I’ve said it so many times), if a game isn’t a platformer, the platforming usually sucks. The Dark Souls series is a perfect example of this in that each game has a platforming section that is utter balls. Platforming demands precise controls, and in games where that isn’t the focus, well, let’s just say that it can be frustrating for those of us with shitty reflexes.

In order to explore this fully, I have to talk about the full slate of abilities you can get in this game. Fair warning about spoilers and such. The game is backloaded with the more advanced abilities, which is another issue I have with the game. In fact, let’s talk about that first. The abilities are Jump which you get almost right away, Double Jump, also an early ability. Glide–somewhere around the middle.

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