Wednesday, March 29, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Titles" - Metroid II: Return of Samus (GB)


"Title" from Metroid II: Return of Samus on the Game Boy (1991)
Composer: Ryoji Yoshitomi
Album: No Official Release
Developer: Nintendo R&D1


First off, since Metroid II: Return of Samus never received an official soundtrack release, the exact title of this song may not be known, so I have decided to go with "Titles' which seems appropriate since the music plays over the title screen.

What I really find interesting about this song, is that during the opening titles, before you even press Start, all you see is the name of the game, the option to start, and this music.  The first tone, which is rather harsh on the ears, sounds like it could be a beacon of some kind (possibly an SOS beacon from the missing Metroid eradication team that Samus was sent to investigate).  Then, at about 0:13 seconds, you hear a bubly computery noise, which sounds a lot like the conversations Doc Louis from Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! has with your opponents between matches.  Then about 0:23 seconds in, a crashing noise comes in over the top of the previous two noises and at this point, there is probably a good chance that you have already pressed start and are on your way to SR388.  

But, if you managed to wait another 13 seconds, you are "treated" to the first hint of a melody, which sounds vaguely similar to minimalist tones at the beginning of the first Metroid.  What I find fascinating about this song, is that it takes until 0:54 before the beacon, Doc Louis (or a Metroid?), and the crashing sound to cease and you actually hear melody.  And nothing was happening on the screen to even hint to the player that anything more interesting that harsh sound effects were in fact not going to play for eternity.  But that melody, possibly Samus' theme for this game, only lasts so long before the "sound effects" come back, eventually drown out the melody and the song fades out to the exploding sound.

It is honestly a somewhat bizarre choice for a title track, but I feel that it still fits fairly well with the Metroid brand, and that on her current mission, Samus is again alone on an alien planet who finds herself against and entire species.  Picture Ellen Ripley in Aliens, but without the support of the marines and armed in a power suit with an arm canon.

Now if I could only find an interview with the composer to find out his inspirations and motivations behind the music for Metroid II.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian

Monday, March 27, 2017

Game EXP: Kholat (PC)


I don't know why I've had such a difficult time writing about my experiences playing KHOLAT, a part survival horror, part walking simulator game from Polish developers IMGN.PRO.  This is now my third attempt to write a cohesive article.  KHOLAT was released back in June of 2015, and I finished the storyline back in November of 2016 after only six hours.

I think where I kept going wrong, was that in both articles, I started talking about the contextual history of KHOLAT, which is based around the nine missing students from the Dylatlov Pass Incident that happened in the Ural Mountians of Russia in February of 1959.  That section usually got bogged down in unintended heaviness and unintentional sentimentality while assuming connections between the real world events and what IMGN.PRO was trying to convey by telling this interpretation of the events.

I also talked about similarities I felt existed between both Dear Esther, and Slender: The Eight Pages, which lead to a not so brief discussion about the survival horror genre (which actually lead to the creation of an article about weaponless survival horror games I put together back in February) and that I felt was pulling me farther away from actually talking about aspects that I liked in KHOLAT.

So now, I am finally going to get around to talk about my experiences.


First off, my computer more-or-less was able to handle the graphical requirements.  I played the game with medium graphical settings pretty much across the board, and even then, the game maxed out at about 28 frames per second.  At times, and in some specific areas, the frame rate dropped down to 15, which was still very playable as I told myself that I would be moving slowly too if I were trudging through that much snow.  Graphical limitations of my computer aside (as I do not find fault with the game) the game ran well, and only crashed a few times, which was pretty annoying, but it is something that I kind of have to learn to deal with.

Even having knowledge about the Dyatlov Pass Incident, tracking the story was a little difficult.  Throughout the game, you find journal entries, newspaper clippings, government reports that give you hints to the overall story.  Combined with the occasional narration by Sean Bean, and trying to 100% nail down who Sean Bean was as a character, made the game a little more confusing that I was expecting, but it did not take away from my overall enjoyment.


Traveling around in this fairly massive area was pretty fun too.  Along with a map, you were also given a compass, which also doubled as a monster detection device that also (I am positive) connected to the storyline. . .somehow.  But I loved being able to pull out the map, take out the compass, use the flashlight on the map, then walk and the map was pulled down to only cover the bottom half of the screen, like what you might do in real life if you found yourself lost.  The map also contained coordinates, but you could only see coordinates on your map, and your exact location was not marked on the map.  Although, whenever you came across a camping location (which allowed for saving and magical transporting to other discovered camp sites), a document, or a significant location, those were marked on the map and you were able to get a better idea of where your exact location was.

I can equally see some people not liking the fact that your map doesn't operate in a traditional video game map sense.  Also not being able to interact with most objects in the environment, coupled with not having any weapons or defense against the few enemies could be a turn off.  My only retort to that is that this is not that kind of game and was not intended to be.  That's all I've got.

The other thing that I loved and was equally surprised about KHOLAT was the soundtrack, written by Polish composer Arkaduisz Reikowski; we used one of his songs for a MIDI Week Single back in October 2016.  I feel that is really all I can say about the music, is that the whole soundtrack is beautiful and surprisingly calm for a game with survival horror elements.  It actually reminds me a little bit of Jessica Curry's music from Dear Esther, but that could just be because KHOLAT itself reminds me of Dear Esther.


What I took away from KHOLAT was that it was a damn beautiful game that seemed primarily about experiences.  There were no enemies to fight, only to run away from.  There were no power ups, or items to collect that leveled up your character.  The items you did find existed to help tell a somewhat confusing story (maybe I just needed to find more?) and I am positive that you could go through the entire game, only reaching specific locations in order to reach the end of the game and still have no idea what was going on.  There were plenty of times in the game that I was just in awe of the visuals and even Sean Bean's sporadic moments of narration seemed melancholy yet wanting to help to somehow make things better.  And since the story can be finished in six hours (probably less as I took a lot of time just looking around and generally exploring, as well as dying on occasion), there is really no reason not to give KHOLAT a chance if you had any interest at all in games like Dear Esther, Slender: The Eight Pages or Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.

In closing, if you are at all interested in giving KHOLAT a chance, I would highly recommend reading up on the Dylatlov Pass Incident.  There's the Wikipedia article, or if you have a couple of hours and enjoy history based and weird (in the "weird fiction" type definition, but in a non-fiction sense), I would recommend listening to the two part Astonishing Legends Podcast about Dylatlov Pass; which also includes pictures recovered after the bodies were found.  This information will at the very least, give some meaning behind the end of the game.

I am now looking forward to IMGN.PRO's next foray into survival horror, Husk, which was released back in February of this year.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian


P.S.  Here are a couple more shots I took while playing, if only because it really was just a beautiful game to walk around and look at the environments (when your compass wasn't going crazy before some fire born entity burst out of the ether and killed you).

Camps are calm, safe, and relaxing places.  Even the sound of the crackling fire is soothing.


Amount of moonlight depended on the location and environment.  


I do not recall the context of what was found here, but it was pretty creepy to come upon while trying to escape an ice cave.

Pak Watch - Another round of Adventure games

The adventure game format seems to be thriving in the indie game community.   It may be just a great format to do narrative experimentation. It helps that the controls and interface are usually fairly simple, and game maker tools for Adventure games have been around a long time.  




Memoranda
Bit Byterz
PC
Based on the work of Haruki Murakami, one of my favorite authors.  Kickstarted in 2015.  Story is of a woman who is gradually forgetting her own name.  I love surreality, and I love how murakami does it.  I am very interested in this game.  $15 on steam.  
I was originally shown this game from an article on Open Culture.





Therapods
Kostas Skiftas
PC

A dinosaur based adventure game, originally made for 2015 Adventure game jam. Short game, looks cute, what's not to love? Free to play.






Beard in the Mirror
Oh, a Rock! Studios
PC

Beard in the mirror is a classic adventure game style game. It looks like a very silly game, celebrating the humor in early PC adventure games.






Wednesday, March 22, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Blades of Steel" - Game Start (NES)


"Game Start" from Blades of Steel on the Nintendo Entertainment System (1987)
Album: No official release
Developer: Konami



Aggghhh!  It's bugging me what two songs this one song reminds me of, which might mean that I should hold off posting this until after I figure it out, but we're going to do this anyway, mainly because I love this game, I think this song is great, and to try and infect the rest of the people who listen to this little ditty.  The sections that I am positive I have heard before are the beats during the intro, and then the outro first heard from 0:29 - 0:32.  I can hear voices singing a song, but I cannot think of what that song is.

Buuuuuuut, Blades of Steel.  Being a sports game on the NES, there was not a lot of memory available for constant background music, what with the ambient static of the crowd cheering, the sound of the puck being passed and the players yelling "take the pass!"  And what music that was actually present in the game was fairly limited in scope, but something about this track is just memorable, possibly because it reminds me of two songs that I am presently unable to think of.  Although it is most likely due to the fact that whomever of the four composers wrote this song (if it was not a collaboration), had also written music for Life Force, Jackal, Rush'n Attack, and Contra, so this is a powerhouse team of classic Konami composers.  I wish there was an easier way to find out which of the four composers wrote which songs, but I have yet to find that identifying information.

GOT IT!!  That last section, the 0:29 - 0:32 is similar to the chord progression in the Village People's "YMCA" from 0:37 - 0:42.  Jeez that would have been bugging me all day, but there you have it.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian
Instrumental

Monday, March 20, 2017

First Impressions: Super Mario Maker (3DS)


This last weekend I made a trip back down to my old stomping grounds of Northern California and was able to spend some wonderful/quality time with Dr. Potts, whom I had not seen since, I think, 2014 when he was Best Man at my wedding; we live in different states and roughly 580 miles away.  That was when he presented me with Super Mario Maker 3DS (or is it Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS, which is what the official Nintendo site says).  This was a game that I thought would be perfect for the 3DS platform when I heard that it was coming out for the Wii U and looked forward to its inevitable release.

So last night (being Friday March 17th when Dr. Potts came over for a visit; and the 18th being the day of this writing) I took out Chrono Trigger (possibly due to my theorized CPS) and put in Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS (hereafter abreviated as just SMM, whenever I remember to do so).  At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to go through the tutorial and just jump straight into making dope-ass levels to play.  Then I immediately remembered that I had not played a Super Mario Bros. game since I dabbled a little bit with Conklederp's copy of New Super Mario Bros., and even then , it was only through at least the first area.  Then I recalled that I have not seriously played a Super Mario Bros. platforming game since I picked up Super Mario World much later than it was first released (I think I got my copy in the late '90s).

At the moment, I have tooled around a little bit the creator, but not so much to actually create a fully fledged level.  After booting up the game, I decided that playing through the tutorial levels would be the best way to go.  This made perfect sense since in one of the earliest tutorial stages, I found out that Mario is now able to jump off of a wall while sliding down it to the wall across from him.  I am still just more that a little bit comfortable with the spin jump introduced in Super Mario World.

So I decided to go through all of the basic and advanced tutorial stages where they teach you how various aspects of the game works, and how to build a level that makes sense.  Kind of like what Extra Credits did in their premier episode of "Design Club" where they illustrated how the design in World 1-1 in the Super Mario Bros. effectively taught the player how to play the game.  This was the impression that I got going through the tutorial stages.  I was a little bit less interested in the occasional bantering between the two characters (a female Human who is a level design apprentice, and a pigeon who is a level design sensei with a lust for edamame;  This whole things seams very Japanese to me, and I'm okay with that) which only became annoying when they veered away from concepts of level design.

But the one thing that really struck me during the advanced tutorial stages (where you play through a level that has concepts from the basic tutorial incorporated and are then shown the reason behind those design choices), was that I genuinely miss playing a straight up Super Mario 2D platformer.  I have in fact played a number of platformers since my last time with New Super Mario Bros. with games such as Mega Man 1 - 4 (I have yet to beat 5 or 6), Super Meat Boy, Gunman Clive I & II, Kirby's AdventureRayman: Origins, Shantae, and probably others if I thought more about it, but you get the idea.  The point is, there is something about a simple and yet, well thought out level designed for Super Mario Bros. that I did not realize I was missing until I played this game.  Maybe the fact that there is no story, or that the levels are fun to play through and did not require precise jumping on a tiny moving platform and having to jump in the small gap with one pixel of either side of the spinning fire bar.  The levels were short, and to the point and I appreciated that.  And now I am very excited to use the bits of acquired knowledge from nearly three hours I spent in the tutorials into practice.

My only gripe about the game is that it is in 2D, which it says on the cover right under the title, "Plays only in 2D", which is a little sad because I would have loved to have played some levels designed with the original Super Mario Bros. palette with 3D effects.  Do I feel that this takes away thing away from my enjoyment?  Of course not, but it was a thought I had, and it went a little something like this, "No 3D?  Ah well, too bad.  Now let's make some levels!"



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian
Instrumental


P.S.  Playing SMM (see, used it!) makes me want to fish out Conklederp's copy of New Super Mario Bros. and seriously give that game a go.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Final Fantasy IX, Game EXP



I finished FFIX over the weekend.  It is a nice game.  

About midway through the third disc, I started using a guide full-time.  In my mind, there is a voice from the past, scolding me for doing this. But in the present, I just don't have the time for trial and error.  Honestly, when random encounters every 9 steps are bugging me for the amount of time they take, there's no way I could deal with fighting boss battles again and again.  The latest FF IX guide over at gamefaqs is quite good.  All thanks to author bover_87 for all their detailed work.  

It's kind of funny,  I primarily used the guide to find out what status resistances I should equip in certain areas and for certain bosses.  It helped immensely.  Not getting your party stopped, silenced or sleeped can really make a difference.  What is funny to me is that the guide offered a lot more detail and suggestions, which I usually ignored.  I followed maybe a quarter of the suggestions given to me, and I managed to cruise through to the end.  The last boss was tough, but I got it in two tries. The game would have been a cake walk if I'd paid more attention to the guide.

I am a little bummed out by the amount of in-game content I missed by choosing the shortest path to th end.  The guide referenced a few powerful spells that I never saw.  There were also a ton of sidequests I ignored.  If I had all the time in the world, I would definitely go back to this game and fart around, following the guide in detail, just to see all of the different aspects of the game.  It seems like they crammed in a lot of stuff.  I can guarantee the boss fights are a breeze when you have all the best weapons and spells.  

Ultimately, I think that I played FFIX at the wrong time of my life.  In my late teens, early twenties, I would have loved this game, I'm sure.  As it stands, I was pretty impatient through the last third of the game, just wanting it to be over.  I also didn't find the story all that compelling.  It was fairly generic, and, unlike previous iterations of Final Fantasy,  I don't have any rose colored glasses to make it seem better.  Oh well.  Most of my opinions of my earlier review of the game hold.  Zidane, the main character, is actually a pretty cool guy.  His passionate defense of his friends, of the value of friendship and comradery, that is all good stuff.  The game doesn't really get any deeper than that.  

-D

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "River of Life" - The Witcher (PC)


"River of Life" from The Witcher on PC, Mac (2007)
Composer: Paweł Błaszczak
Developer: CD Project Red


Since I am in the thick of playing The Witcher (the first game in the series), I felt like sharing a bit of this fantastic soundtrack by Polish composers Paweł Błaszczak and Adam Skorupa.

The first time I recall hearing this music in-game was outside the walled city of Vizima, in Chapter 2 of the game.  I had managed to scrounge up enough money in order to bribe the guards in order to leave the quarantined city so that I could make my way to the swamp for one quest or another.  After being somewhat stuck in the crowded slum-ish part of the city (after having been thrown in jail, then trudging through sewers to kill a cockatrice in order to secure my freedom), the openness of Vizima's dike was most welcome.  Then to have this beautiful music accompany me in this small area was very much  relief.

I love the melody, first played on the violin/fiddle which is then taken up by a bagpipe type instrument (sounds like a subtle bagpipe chanter, but without the drones anyway).  Then the vocals come in around 1:38 and add an ethereal quality that only adds to the refreshing feeling of being outside of a crowded city.  I guess you could say this song is how my brain feels any time Conklederp and I leave the city and go to the forests in the surrounding area to go hiking.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian

Monday, March 13, 2017

Recent Study About Psychological Effects of Violent Video Games.

Having played video games of various genres on various platforms for just over 30 years (the exact date that I was introduced to video games, I cannot specifically recall, but it was sometime around 1986 at the latest), I admittedly find myself defensive whenever I hear reports about video games causing someone to act out in a violent and aggressive manner.  I believe that there people who are prone to violent media may be more drawn to video games where committing acts of violence against something else (human, alien, etc) is the core component of that game.  I do not believe that a video game will make someone go out and commit a crime because they were able to do so as a character in a game.

I fully admit that when a report is released about how video games adversely affect society as a whole and make them more prone to committing violence or criminalized acts, I tend to be skeptical, often looking for information that could discredit the report.  I fully acknowledge that I have inherent biases in this topic.  With that in mind, I was happy to see a scientific study (conducted at the Hanover Medical School in Hanover, Germany) that showed no harmful long term psychological effect by those who play violent video games when compared to a control group.

The published article from Frontiers in Psychology on March 8th of 2017 made a fair amount of headlines, and not just in video game circles either, but standard news publications, with the article I was directed to (from either facebook or reddit) being the online version from The Daily Telegraph.  The article gave a pretty decent synopsis of what the study reported, but I wanted to read the actual study myself, if only to be able to try to fully understand the purpose and methods that the researches used to come up with their findings.  After a bit of searching and more clicking that it probably should have taken, and found the research article titled, "Lack of Evidence That Neural Empathic Responses Are Blunted in Excessive Users of Violent Video Games: An fMRI Study."

The purpose of this research study was to challenge what is called the General Aggression Model which purports that "The results from both studies are consistent with the General Affective Aggression Model, which predicts that exposure to violent video games will increase aggressive behavior in both the short term (e.g., laboratory aggression) and the long term (e.g., delinquency)."  Now, I have not paid the required $11.95 to read this research report from 2000.  What the researchers found was that ". . .the lack of group differences in our fMRI data dues [sic] not suggests, that excessive VVG [Violent Video Games] use leads to long term emotional desensitization and a blunting of neural responses related to empathy."

I also acknowledge the shortcomings of this study in particular, in that there were a limited number of participants and that all of the participants were male.  This limitation of only male participants seems to be an inherent bias regarding research studies looking at possible connections between violent video games and the brains of those playing.  It would seem that additional studies that include all genders be included would be required in order to have more comprehensive data.

I highly recommend reading the article for yourselves as I know that my brief is beyond brief when it comes to unpacking scientific research studies.  I did have to skim through a couple of the sections that I was unable to follow ("Questionnaire Data," and "fMRI"), but I felt that those were not written with the layman in mind; that is what the abstract is for.

While looking up documents and general researching for this article, I did come across some additional articles that look to be of interest on this topic, even the ones that go against what I have witnessed amongst myself and my close group of friends.  So thank you to the authors of this research study, Gregor R. Szycik, Bahram Mohammadi, Thomas F. Münte, and Bert T. te Wildt.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian


P.S.
I also wanted to point out that Gregor R. Szycik published a similar research paper last April (4/16/2016) titled "Excessive users of violent video games do not show emotional desensitization: an fMRI study." 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Product Review: Game of Thrones: Season Six Blu-ray



With yesterdays release of the start date for season seven of Game of Thrones, I felt that this article which I had written back on December 12th of last year seemed appropriate to post for today.  I would also like to half-assedly apologize for the whiny tone I take throughout most of this article.  The more I wrote and the more I thought about this lack of quality that went into the production and distribution of this season of such an otherwise well made show, made me more and more irritated.

This article is regarding the presentation and quality of the Blu-ray for season six of Game of Thrones which I purchased through Amazon.com; my issue is not with Amazon.com, but with the product developed and released by HBO and "sold" by Amazon, so my complaint is not with them, but with HBO.

I am not happy with the decline in quality with the season six Blu-ray for Game of Thrones.  The physical discs are fine, but their presentation in the box, the quality of the box and case, and the presentation of the digital media on the discs is lacking from what I come to expect from an HBO product and is considerably less quality than previous seasons.  I actually do like how the discs clip onto the case and how there is a physical divider between the top and bottom disc so as to prevent scratches on either disc, but it seems like nearly everything else with the production of this boxed set I have a problem with; which I know comes across as potentially petty.

First off, the outer case is flimsy paper-board which only covers a portion of the box which causes the edges and sides to pucker and pull away from the box.  Also the areas where the outer case was perforated from the pieces that were removed stick out and while is purely cosmetic, still comes across as an unsightly blemish.  What you can see in the picture, is after only a few months of sitting on the shelf amongst all of the other Game of Thrones Blu-ray boxes, as well as occasionally taking the box off of the shelf to play the enclosed discs.  

Secondly, the inner box which has the plastic holder that holds the discs has begun to pull away from the case.  While I do not mind the plastic holder specific to this seasons box set (as opposed to the ones that were used in every previous season), whatever the glue that was used appears to be of not as high a quality as previously used.

Thirdly, there was no booklet produced for this season unlike the booklet that was included with each previous season.  What you see pictured is the extent of the materials inside the box.  What I liked about this booklet that was included in the previous five seasons was that it said which specific episodes had commentaries and who was a part of those commentaries, as well as the writers and director of that specific episode.  And to date, I still have not finished rewatching the season with or without the commentaries for the sole reason that I do not know which episodes have commentaries, who is on them and it is mentally harder to track.  Yes, I know, first world problem, but where else to complain but on the Internet.

Compare, if you will, the difference in episode information between season six, and season five.

This is the extent of the information, as part of the physical cover, for each episode for season six of Game of Thrones Blu-ray box set.

[Sorry for potato quality] This is the separate booklet with episode synopsis, writer/director, and commentary listings for season five of Game of Thrones Blu-ray boxed set.
As far as the production work done on the Blu-ray discs, I was disappointed to find out that there is no information on the discs for who is on a specific episode's commentary.  While the episode does say that there is a commentary, there is no information about who is present unless there are multiple commentaries for a single episode, unlike previous seasons discs where it says who is on the audio commentary when you select that you want to listen to a commentary.  As previously stated, this makes tracking which commentaries I have already listened to difficult, although I am not against listening to commentaries more than once, otherwise I probably would not have been so annoyed.

I am sure that my complaints could be chalked up to minor issues, but having purchased each previous season of Game of Thrones (except the first season which was a gift, and our introduction to the show) and been more than happy with the physical and digital presentation of the discs and the media on the discs, I wanted to let you know that I am unhappy with the corners that were cut by either HBO or the production company involved in order to either save on money (while still charging the same cost as previous seasons) or to have the product shipped earlier than previous seasons.  For the following seasons 7 and 8, I am considering waiting until the product has been released before I purchase my copy rather than be surprised and disappointed again by a product that I have come to love and be excited to watch and display.

At this point, I am not looking for a credit, a refund, or compensation in anyway.  I just want to let HBO (see P.S. below) that I am unhappy with a sub-par quality product that they, at the very least, put their stamp of approval on.



~Jack Wright


P.S.  I did contact HBO through the HBO Online Shop site, but was told that because they do not distribute the Blu-ray boxed sets there was nothing they could do.  The woman who emailed me back, did suggest I try "HBO Consumer Affairs," which was where I was able to find another email address, so I sent the same complaint (most of the text taken from this article).  That email exchange happened between December 7th and 12th and I have not heard anything back from the message I sent to HBO Consumer Affairs.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: Statue Park - Goldeneye 007 (N64)


"Statue Park" from GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64 (1997)
Composer: Graeme Norgate & Grant Kirkhope
Released: No Official Soundtrack Release
Developer: Rare, Inc.




I chose this song for MIDI week singles because this level was the first level in Goldeneye 007 that really stumped me.  Up to this point, I was able to solve most levels in a few tries, with some support from guides and reviews.  But when I played 'Statue Park' I would just get lost.  I hated this level.  I think that it was primarily a graphical failing, the level was dark, the graphics fuzzy, and I was running around in circles.  

The saving grace for Statue Park was the music.  It has this nice, slow roll, with the sound growing into grandiosity before calming back down.  Because the music expands so gently, steadily, I tend to be able to listen to it again and again.  I was surprised when I looked up the song that it is only 2:24 long. I would have thought twice as long, at least.  

So, for providing a pleasant soundtrack to a frustrating level, Statue Park, I choose you!

-D


Monday, March 6, 2017

Pak Watch - more pixely art indie game goodness



Takume, the dreaming daughter
talecrafter
PC
Takume is a very short (around 5 min.) and linear atmospheric and dramatic adventure game. A mystic story about identity, dreaming and dealing with past events. I like the art. Free to download and play.



------------




Rain World
Adult Swim Games
PS4
Rain World. Looks sweet. really like the rusty pixel art graphics. You control a white, weasel-like creature called a 'slug cat.' Looks like instense, atmospheric platforming. When the rain falls, it falls hard, shakes the ground, and will kill you. I don't own a PS4, but if I did, I'd be interested.



-------





Totem Teller
Grinning Pickle
PC/Multiplatform
The graphics in this game are totally nuts! I love how it's glitchy and grainy, but also looks polygonal? Colorful. Some kind of storytelling theme. Not a lot of detail. Press kit says "Explore a world without prompts, golden paths or other hand holding." Intruiging.


-D

Friday, March 3, 2017

Monthly Update: March 2017


Looking over the notes I have for February and what I'm looking at towards Smarch and all its lousy weatheriness, there appears to be quite a lot.

In the physical games front, D&D has been happening on its regular basis since the beginning of the year, and again, the current quest has taken a lot longer than originally anticipated.  The group is actually meeting up tomorrow to officially finish the current story and then do a one-off quest so that people don't leave after the first hour or two.  Plus we may not be meeting up again until April so I want to make our monthly meet up count.  We have also decided to focus on more single one-off quests that do not necessarily require all seven PCs to be present.  Chreekat has even expressed interest in DMing a western/Fallout world type campaign that would still have all of the same rules, just the setting is different.

And last weekend, Conklederp and I were able to play a round of Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition with D&D regulars Himo and Folly at their place.  That was the second time that we had played MoM2 with people other than ourselves and it was so much fun to play.  The only thing that I think I would have done differently, was forcing people to solve people on their own, although that would be hard to do since we were using the application through Steam.  Now if there were a way to force people to use a mobile app in order to solve puzzles. . .actually that might be more difficult to implement and possibly increase the overall cost of an already expensive game.

In the PC game market, I have had a resurgence in playing The Witcher through GOG's Galaxy client.  I think I had hit a wall where I was under the impression that I would be unable to learn a spell that I had missed in the previous chapter, which I had read was the most useful spell in the game.  After a fair amount of Google searching, I used some FAQs, found the spell, and dove head long into Chapter 3.  43 hours in now and I am thoroughly enjoying this fictional world again.  

I've plodded a bit more in I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, although I hit a story wall that I am not sure how to break through.  I guess I could just "kill" my character and start over, which is sort of how that game works, but I feel that I have progressed too far in this particular story to quit now.

I also cannot believe that I have yet to talk about the Mega Man inspired game Nefarious. a game that I pledged on Kickstarter back in Fall 2014.  I am about 2/3rds of the way through the game and for the most part, I think playing as the bag guy in a Mega Man inspired game is a pretty brilliant idea and the game is mostly well executed, with only a couple of gripes on my part, but I will get into that later in the month after I have beaten the game since I feel I am too far for a First Impressions article.

On the 3DS, I am still emotionally working through Chrono Trigger, which I anticipate I will be finishing in the coming weeks.  And in flurried bits, I am playing Ultimate NES Remix, which is a nice frustrating diversion from the the longer games on other systems; also the fact that asshats still insist on buying out and overcharging for the Nintendo Classic Mini five months after its original limited release; but hey, you can still buy the official carrying case for $19.

In the mobile game arena, I had been playing (up until my phone went stolen) a lot of Fire Emblem Heroes, Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius, and Pokemon GO on the ocassions that I left my house and was within swiping distance of a Pokestop.  However, since my mobile playing/calling device is no longer in  my posession, an article about the first two games will have to wait, if only because I feel that both of those games deserve to have pictures posted with their respective articles; as free to play games, they are pretty damn good looking.

In the TV realm, Conklederp and I finished powering through Penny Dreadful, which ended its third and final season, which ended in kind of a disappointing way.  The short of it is, is that it is an amazing series with Eva Green doing an Emmy worthy performance as Vanessa Ives (although never nominated specifically for an Emmy, she was recognized by other award groups), as well as brilliant acting by both Josh Hartnett and Timothy Dalton that actually made me like them more than anything else they had previously done.  If you have not seen the show, think of it like a mix between The Monster Squad, Castlevania, but heavily character driven and without a lot of camp that could have easily been instilled by someone who thought they knew better. We also just finished the most recently released season of Bates Motel, and now we are waiting for the fifth and final season to be released either later this year or early next year.  And I recently started watching The Expanse, which I am enjoying a lot, even if I have a hard time tracking all of the characters' names; something I acknowledge is a weakness of mine when it comes to large ensemble shows.

Regarding movies, both Conklederp and I have been kind of lite as far as going out to see them.  We did see A Cure for Wellness which was as good a movie as we were expecting based on the trailers.  And as Dr. Potts pointed out, Get Out and Logan also look like they are both right up our ally, although I might end up seeing Logan by myself as it Conklederp is not one for comic book movies.  And now that I think about it, I do not think that I have seen an X-Men movie since the atrocity that was X-Men: The Last Stand.  Maybe that movie will not hinge itself on not having seen any of the other Wolverine or X-Men movies?

In the books frontier, I recently finished Critical Failures: Caverns & Creatures Book 1 and will have a Book Review article later in the month.  I am still trudging through Ship of Theseus, which sounds a lot more negative that intended.  I love the concept of the book, but finding time and a safe place to read the book can be challenging sometimes.  I also just started reading Elizabethan Demonolgy by Thomas Alfred Spalding, which is not as evil as it sounds.  It is a book that attempts to put into context devils, demons, and other forms of evil by looking at how they have been utilized throughout history; at least up until the book was published in 1880.  At about 43% of the way through, it is an amazing read that uses myth, biblical citations, Shakespeare (spelled "Shakespere" throughout, which apparently a common enough way to spell his name at that time), and Sir Walter Scot as sources cited throughout the entire book.  As someone who loves history and finding out contextual evidence for things being the way they are, I could not recommend this book enough.

Oh, and apparently the Nintendo Switch was released today, which most gaming and like-minded sites are probably talking about.  So you will just have to wait until one is acquired by either Dr. Potts or myself for us to make any informed comments about the system and games.  Nope, that FedEx truck that just drove by was not meant to drop of a Switch at our place. . .unless they flip back around. . .



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Monthly Update: Smarch

(I'm pretty sure I've used this Smarch joke before.)



Lousy Smarch Weather.  Actually, this last month has featured more rain than I can remember in my adult life.  I compared it to last year, where the high was .40 inches in a day.  That was the norm this year.  The high was like 2 inches.  Granted, last year was the fourth drought year in a row, which enhances the difference.  Now on to the March Forecast. (for games!)

The Nintendo Switch comes out in a few days, and along with it, Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  This game looks awesome, and the preliminary reviews say as much.  Like, seriously, this looks like the Zelda game we've all been wishing for since Ocarina of Time came out.  Open world, packed with things to find, areas to explore.  People often draw comparisons to recent open world titles like Skyrim, which I'm sure are apt, but I also want to stress that this hearkens back to the very first Zelda game, a classic that is still fun to play today.  Sometimes returning to your roots can be a good thing.  I am super-pumped for this title, but I also don't think I'm going to buy it anytime soon, so I'm also trying to be cautious and not look up too much info.  But it will appear in a flood soon, and I'll have trouble resisting.

Why am I not buying Zelda, anyway?  A variety of reasons.  I'm not financially ready to plunk down $300+ for a Nintendo Switch.  But there is a Wii U version, which should be about $60.   This is seriously tempting.  I'm sure there are some reasons it won't be as good, but I'm optimistic that the differences won't be huge, given the game was in development for a long time, and was moved to a Switch Launch title after the system was announced.  If the reviews say that the game is much better experienced on the Switch, then I will probably hold out until I'm ready to buy a switch.  I'm kind of hoping it will be, so I'll have an excuse to hold out.  Besides, I already came up with a plan to make it through the hype.

I can get Zelda; Windwaker HD for a mere $20 on the Wii U.  That price point is much more in my wheelhouse, and Windwaker is generally regarded as the last/best Zelda game on console.  I've been thinking I would do this as soon as I finished Final Fantasy IX, which I am very near doing.  I'd have liked to have gotten there before the Switch launch, but I don't see that happening.  Oh well.  I'll probably still go for it in a few weeks.  In the meantime, I'll finish up Final Fantasy IX and also get started on Castlevania, Lords of Shadow.  A game with a sweet soundtrack that I got for my birthday!  

Another thing coming out on March 3rd is the movie 'Logan.'  This is the third and final Wolverine movie, and I think it looks amazing.  Both trailers have been awesome, and so far the critical response has been great.  It looks to be a character-driven X-men movie, which is a nice break from the 23 character action extravaganzas of recent years.  All in all, I like the tone, the concept.  I am very excited to see that movie.  

Speaking of Movies, I'm also super-into seeing the new thriller/horror flick 'Get Out.'  This movie stands alone as a horror movie that is very much about the experience of a Black Man in a white neighborhood that is creepy!  This is such fertile ground for horror, it's a wonder it took this long for a movie like this to be released.  It's also gotten fantastic critical reception.  I am very excited for this one as well, as is Jane, who normally hates horror.  

Okay, I think I've gotten to the end of things I want to talk about today.  Better get back to my job. heh heh heh.

-D


P.S.  check out this Breath of the Wild protoype done in the style of Zelda 1!  I kind of want to play this Zelda 1 version even more than the Switch version!