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Messages - MagicCow64

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General Gaming / Re: What are you playing?
« on: February 18, 2022, 09:16:35 PM »
As happened with Stardew Valley in the last game, the current Mafia game got me to play Pikmin 3 Deluxe, where I started a new file, this time playing on hard mode. I just adore this game. The Pikmin series has always been one of my favorites, I went as far as to import New Play Control Pikmin 2 from Europe back in the day, and Pikmin 3 is just the perfect synthesis of the best ideas of the first two games. I'm so happy this game got a second chance on Switch, and I hope more people got to experience its greatness. It seems like it did reasonably well, so here's hoping Nintendo goes back to the series and gives us Pikmin 4.

I think Pikmin 3 gets very close to fully nailing it, but doesn't quiiiite get there. The fruit collection is ultimately too easy to put real pressure on (and the fruit are not nearly as satisfying to collect as the human flotsam from the previous games). The sequence that pulls the rug out for a bit is very memorable as a result.

Like, each game is a 9/10 in its own right, but it always feels like it's just shy of true greatness. Someday P4 will come and become the rapture.

General Gaming / Re: What is the last game you beat? Thoughts/impressions?
« on: December 19, 2021, 10:03:33 PM »
Game Pass (PC):

I impulsively jumped on a Game Pass cheap sub scheme without really thinking it through, and realized shortly afterward that there wasn't much on there I actually wanted to play that I could run on my computer. But then I noticed the new "Cloud" tab and was absolutely gobsmacked at the feature. It runs perfectly, far better than Stadia, and has a ton of content that I would only touch in this exact circumstance.


Despite owning a 360 at several points, I never tried the post-betrayal Rare games despite being curious about them. Thanks, cloud! The concept of a Zelda-type game with full Majora's Mask type transformations to approach exploration and combat is a good one, and the game is surprisingly ambitious on a technical level. But boy, the controls for the most part absolutely suck and the level design is extremely basic. And goddamn, so much bad combat. I sincerely doubt Nintendo ever would have let this thing out the door in its published state. Really the only positive I can drum up is the Metroid Prime-esque roly poly gameplay, which actually feels good.

Banjo and Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts:

I've been kind of fascinated from a distance by Rare's weird implosion post-Nintendo, and I finally have the chance to give the red-headed step-child a spin. And boy is it weird. It's extremely in your face about game trends from the outset, stating that people only want shooters in the 360 era . . . and then it reformulates itself as a quasi-platformer revolving around Lego vehicle construction, which absolutely no one was asking for. Despite that, it's kind of weirdly compelling in its commitment to an awkward, left-field idea. The actual levels are messy and disorienting and the objectives range from trivial to controller-throwingly frustrating, but I nonetheless kind of respect it. But Jesus Christ, the physics/collision model in no way supports the racing/combat challenges, and the mere notion of going for the bonus trophies is stomach-turning.

Blinx the Time Cat:

In retrospect it's hilarious that anyone was trying to champion this as a Mario-killer type game. I made it about 30 minutes in. It's basically unplayable. The weird arcade-y game structure is also completely incompatible with the headline gameplay hook, which, insanely, you can't even use freely.

Gears of War 4:

I never bothered with this in non-cloud form given its reputation, but with the cloud? Why the hell not. It's worse than 5 in every way and has an extremely depressing vibe to the whole thing, given that it just resurrects the Locust in mostly the same form and makes the entire previous trilogy feel totally pointless. But it does introduce a set of annoying, spongey monsters and robots. The amount of time I spent inside of a stupid critter waiting for the AI teammates to shoot me out . . .

Halo Infinite:

The real test of the magic cloud, a day-and-date debut of a high-stakes Halo refresh. It looks great, plays seamlessly. The gameplay itself is very snappy and smooth and the new grappling hook really gives the experience a much-needed kick in the ass. I'm so far liking the open-world take on the franchise, which elevates the original sandboxy-ness while providing an appealing progress structure that was previously lacking. There is a bit of a loss in terms of the old "just make it to the next checkpoint" ethos of the first games, but that was already deployed a number of times, so why not toss a map at it and see what happens.

Overall, it's insane to me that I'm paying like $5 a month for access to this technology.

Nintendo Gaming / Re: Metroid Dread
« on: October 10, 2021, 08:58:31 PM »
Well, some not-so-happy campers here!

For background, I love all Metroid, 2D and 3D (sans Other M), going back to being seven years old and getting lost in the original. I think the vast majority of the indie Metroidvania renaissance pales in comparison to the Super-> titles. The only games I'd put in the same league are Hollow Knight (pre-endless DLC/tinkering), Shadow Complex, and Toki Tori 2 (though it's a much different animal--basically a whole game of learning the wall jump in Super Metroid). It's obviously an alluring formula to attempt, and I play a lot of the attempts to scratch the itch, but almost all fundamentally miss something that makes the princes of the genre shine, be that world design, game feel, abilities, etc.

I wasn't wild about Samus Returns.

Dread is a considerable step up, but at about 1/3 of the way through (I think), it's got too many of the Samus Returns bones for my preference. It's a bit of a strange experience.

On the one hand, the game feels mostly excellent to play. It's all so smooth and snappy that it really carries you along. That not-great Metroidvania feeling of looking at the map and going "****, I have to slog all the way back over there" largely disappears because you can barrel through screens so fast once you get the hang of an area. The slide is great, and I really like that they "blue ball" you to get you to adjust to the new option.

On the other hand, they kept the counter bullshit. It's a bit better because you can do it while moving and they dialed down the number of enemies that have snap moves, but I think it still fundamentally sucks and makes the experience more annoying and choppy for no real benefit. There are still enemies (and even door locks!) that you can only hurt by juking around and waiting for their touchy counter windows. As I wrote in my Samus Returns assessment, the counter should only be there as a bonus shortcut in boss-type fights. It's not as bad here, but still something of a bird **** on the sundae.

I think the map design is very good so far, another big point in its favor. It keeps you on something of a leash, but not like Fusion. I regularly hit sector loops where I have to stop and think about what I'm doing or how I can get past an obstacle. The interactivity of the environment is fun and I'd to see this aspect taken further in the future.

The secrets aren't as great. There's an over-reliance on lock-and-key door/block types (maybe like 8?!) that makes me want to just ignore stuff until the end of the game, a big issue with Samus Returns. I'm hoping the more interconnected map and natural backtracking will move the needle on this, but it's a pretty fundamental piece of the puzzle of this genre, and it's a bit lacking. There's even a weird compromise with the bad SR map scanning ability, where now the map just defaults to a blinking border around an area where there's a secret.

The EMMIs are great! This game needed a gimmick, and I think it's a cool one. They're tense, they change up the pacing, they're not too punishing with the checkpoints, and they really make the game-feel shine as you scramble around and dick with cloaks and **** while trying to achieve an objective. The AI/animation implementation is impressive and intimidating; these things are trying to kill you! Escaping a death grip is a nice jolt, and it's very satisfying to pop one of those motherfuckers and gain ownership of an area.

I actually bought a TV to play this game, and it looks great on a big screen. Very smooth, details pop. Buuut the art design doesn't quite get there. Something just a little too plastic about the style, and most biomes and enemies lean toward the bland (hello, Samus Returns!). But also, the use case of making this 3D absolutely succeeds; the omega blaster is a genuinely interesting crowbar into three-dimensional space that ties in seamlessly with the 2D gameplay, and it also allows for cool transitions in and out of scripted sequences. Another thing I want more of in a future title! (3D map, 2D gameplay, 3D map, 2D gameplay)

Overall, despite some sour notes, it's pulling me forward in the way the good'ns of the genre do. I'm eager to see how it all ends up in the final reckoning.

General Gaming / Re: What is the last game you beat? Thoughts/impressions?
« on: September 08, 2021, 09:22:22 PM »
12 Minutes (PC):

I'd heard of this game in fits and snatches over the years and was very interested in the concept. I've thought for a long time that the adventure game genre could take a big leap forward with more contained and more interactive experiences. A time loop was a great opportunity to explore a new direction.

Unfortunately, it kind of sucks. This is probably the only game I'd rate a 5/10 and still recommend enthusiasts to check out. It's a kinda fascinating study of what could have been.

Given that this game was in the works for like five years, I have to assume that the gravity of the task, creating a 10-minute Groundhog's Day, was ultimately outside the scope of what they could achieve. That's either a troubling comment on the possibilities of interactive entertainment, or a big failure from the team.

It's easy to come up with possibilities on one hand that the game logically should have explored, but didn't or couldn't. Instead, the game feels very constricted within a constricted space. A few quality-of-life improvements, like a ZTD time map, or even a macro recording ability or a rewind, would have rendered the game absolutely trivial, which is probably why they didn't include them.

But someone should actually address this concept in a more compelling and articulated fashion! It's one of the unexplored possibilities of games!

TalkBack / Re: A Monster's Expedition (Switch) Review
« on: August 29, 2021, 10:50:25 AM »
"The puzzles are airtight and islands slight, meaning there really is only one solution to each island."

This is . . . actually not the case.

The "meta" game to reach the snowmen or hidden island chains often utilize alternate solutions to islands or even groups of islands in conjunction, usually to assemble rafts. It can get insanely complicated, though it's also easy to ignore that part of the game and just go down the main funnel to the end.

General Gaming / Re: What are you playing?
« on: July 03, 2021, 09:44:49 PM »
Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies (3DS):

I played through the first four games over a fairly short period of time, and got pretty sick of it, but nonetheless had a baseline affection for this adventure game approach.

Decided to jump back in to the controversial latter two games since I was already fiddling with 3DS stuff again.

Boy can I see the cause of the negativity!

For one, the transition to 3D graphics totally sucks. To an extent, it's kind of impressive that they managed to impute some of the animation style of the pixel games to the polygonal overhaul, but overall it adds nothing to the gameplay and just makes most of it look worse. Wright in particular looks like ****. And overall it just makes everything blander and pokier.

On top of that, the game strips out much of the adventure game DNA by taking away environmental exploration outside of a few very constricted spaces. Most of the investigation portion feels like its on rails as a result, diverging toward a plain visual novel trajectory. Very lame.

The actual trial stuff also feels considerably more spoon fed than in previous games, with the characters bordering on just stating out loud the solutions. Athena's emotional psychology stuff also just blows and feels like Telltale-level fake interaction scheme.

I'm still going for the time being, because this series is still good at stringing you along with the mystery content, but damned if this title isn't toeing into walking sim territory.

Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS):

I finally got curious enough after the Dread announcement to give this a shot, despite my misgivings about the studio and bouncing off Mirror of Fate.

On the front of things, I was impressed by the "game feel", which alleviates some of my concerns coming out of the Castlevania attempt. Samus feels very snappy and fluid and you can really fly through the environments as you accrue upgrades.

I also appreciate that they kept far more of the original Metroid II design bones than I was expecting. For the most part it sticks to the hivey ethos of the progenitor, where you're digging through discrete zones to root out the Metroids within, weird blotchy distribution of upgrades and all. The only significant deviation I noted was the digging machine stuff, which was pretty bad, but the extra stuff in AM2R I think is arguably worse and more bolted-on feeling. (Funny, though, that both approaches felt the need to insert an annoying robot boss.)

Well, also the final Ridley fight, which was actually challenging if a bit too protracted. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I think the final Metroid variant is also different from the original, and more obnoxious, but it was probably the right call to switch it up.

Visually it looks okay-ish; a bit bland as most 2.5d games like this tend to be, but Samus herself looks good. Definitely limited by the hardware, so I'm hopeful the final Dread product will benefit from higher fidelity.


Goddamn does the counter system suck, worse than I anticipated. It isn't just an optional thing that speeds up combat, it infects nearly every enemy interaction. Almost all the varmints have obnoxious charge moves that you can't ignore. You just have constant organic missiles firing at you at all times, and it sucks. The freeze beam is so weak and short-lived that it's equally annoying to freeze enemies and smash them with the counter as it is to just counter normally. Every beam strength upgrade you get is matched with redder variants of the same enemies that are just as spongy, and commonly even invincible without countering. And they do outrageous damage.

Like, in the context of this particular game, I can see the counter thing being welcome in terms of the Metroid fights and rewarding knowledge and skill to shorten the encounters, but as a blanket mechanic is absolutely blows, and I don't know why Nintendo okayed it.

I also do not at all care for the aether system, or whatever it's called. I did not want another meter to babysit in this context, and it seemed to directly contribute to the sponginess of many of the enemies. The shield ability is okay as a fallback when you're low on health, but the mapping ability in particular is baffling. You get it very early on and it just totally takes the wind out of exploration. You can just find everything automatically and there's no reason not to. Maybe this would have been okay as a late game thing, but as it is it totally neuters one of the core pleasures of this style of game. I really don't know what they were thinking with this, other than feeling like they needed to layer on a bunch of missile upgrades with lame lock-and-key solutions that would not be at all fun to discover organically only to realize that you just had to come back later lay a super bomb.

So overall, very mixed on this remake. I would probably prefer it over AM2R if it wasn't for the tedious combat. I think in the end the original Gameboy game is pound-for-pound better, more impressive and atmospheric. And, I think, absolutely playable.

TalkBack / Re: Metroid Dread Announced, Launching October 8
« on: June 15, 2021, 11:03:29 PM »
I don't know the development history of Mirror of Fate, but the idea of tilting the focus of a 2D 'troidvan toward slower-paced combat was fundamentally unsound, and that ethos appeared to carry over to Samus Returns. Really hoping it's toned down for Dread.

My issue with the melee junk in Metroid is similar to my disdain for it in the Resident Evil series. These are infected monsters, you shouldn't be touching them! In Metroid's case, Samus's arm is a gun! It's all about shooting these creatures from a distance, no reason to migrate it toward the many close-quarters 'troid-likes out there.

TalkBack / Re: Metroid Dread Announced, Launching October 8
« on: June 15, 2021, 09:13:11 PM »
I am somewhat nonplussed about this. Polygonal 2D games kinda just never look too good, and this doesn't appear to be an exception.

Conceptually it seems fine, but I really have no faith in Mercury Steam, particularly having tried their really bad 2.5D Castlevania game. Granted, I haven't played Samus Returns, but it seemed like a very unappealing update. Why, oh why, would you emphasize the melee garbage from Other M? And that gameplay plank is being brought forward into Dread.

On the positive side, from what I've scoped, this project is based on a Nintendo-internal design approach they couldn't nail previously, and that there's more internal Nintendo involvement on this title than there was on Samus Returns. So maybe they'll be able to give Mercury Steam the Retro treatment. But I'm not getting my hopes up.

Paper Mario: The Origami King (Switch):

I am not a Paper Mario originalist who demands that Nintendo reiterate the 1,000-Year Door. In fact, my favorite game in the franchise is Super Paper Mario, and I'm perfectly happy to see what new approaches IS cooks up for each new entry. That said, I skipped Sticker Star based on poor reviews, as well as Color Splash, which didn't seem to deviate enough from that annoying-sounding formula.

But Origami King had a pretty warm response from what I saw, jettisoning the purely disposable combat item system, so I decided to dip back in.

It's . . . okay.

It looks great, it plays smoothly, if a touch on the pokey side. I enjoyed boinking around the environments in a mildly Luigi's Mansion-ish fashion, digging up toads and treasures. There's also a surprising amount of variety in the adventure gameplay department, though nothing too individually mindblowing.

Less successful is the meat-and-potatoes combat. I just don't really care for the brain-teaser format of the ring system, which always felt either completely obvious or impossible for me to figure out in the allotted time. It's telling that the game rewards you for solving the puzzles with one-round fights and punishes you for failing them by making you engage in this system for longer. Nor is there really any meaningful leveling up, equipment, or other standard RPG components that help keep the mook fights interesting. By the end of the game, I was doing my utmost to avoid non-mandatory encounters and would groan out loud when I tripped into one.

But, weirdly enough, the boss fights are generally really good, tense and engaging, always introducing new wrinkles into the formula that you have to learn on the fly (man, **** those scissors). I would have been perfectly happy if the only time the ring system came into play was during those boss fights and maybe the odd hand-crafted mook roadblock with non-randomized layouts.

Really, though, the game overall seems barely interested in its traditional RPG vestiges. Like, there's even a completely real-time category of enemies, including bosses. I wouldn't be surprised if the developers wanted to jettison the menu-based combat altogether, as they did with their best game, SPM. I hope the next title is freed to become a full-on gonzo Nintendo take on the adventure genre, though with the demise of the Mario and Luigi series that seems unlikely.

Finally, regarding story/character/writing junk, which I guess has more salience in an RPG, it's nothing to write home about. The core plot is perfunctory and the weird insistence on mostly generic toad characters definitely holds the game back from developing any particularly interesting scenarios or interactions. The tropishly naive origami gal is pretty dull, and the non-koopa companions are likewise fairly bland (though the game earns points for the end of "Bobby's" involvement). The odd line of random toad dialogue is funny, but otherwise little of the story's presentation or content is memorable. Not a big deal for me, but definitely room for improvement.

I'd say a solid 7.5/10 game, and a marked improvement on the last Mario RPG I played (Dream Team), even if it's barely an RPG.

General Gaming / Re: What are you playing?
« on: March 19, 2021, 07:22:34 PM »
NSO NES and SNES Libraries (Switch):

I've finally hit a point of pandemic boredom in which I signed up for the free NSO trial to check out the pre-modern game libaries. I've poked around a good bit, and probably would have gotten the $4 worth for the month already. I'll probably let it go at least one billing cycle to pursue a few of the titles further.

The good:

-Fire and Ice (NES): I'd never heard of this before, but it's right up my ally in terms of puzzle platforming, and has a really nice presentation to boot for an 8-bit game.

-Rygar (NES): I'd heard of this, but never played it, and after putting in 30 minutes or so it seems like a smoothly executed and ambitious semi-open adventure.

-Joe and Mac 2 (SNES): Not the deepest experience in the world, but it looks great and plays well, with a pleasing overworld map that lets you chart your own path through the levels.

-Pop'n Twinbee (SNES): This is I think the first official US release? Regardless, I'm really enjoying the atmosphere even if I'm not the biggest shmup guy.

-Super Punch Out (SNES): The greater complexity compared to the NES/Wii game is throwing me off, but I didn't give it long. I intend to give this one the old college try, though, as I really liked the NES game from the Wii virtual console and loved the Wii remake, one of the undersung games of that gen.

-Kirby's Dream Course (SNES): I had a bad rental of this or something as a young one, and wasn't intending to put much time into this, but I surprised myself by clearing the first world, and think I'll enjoy the rest as well now that I "get" golf as an adult (the game does a really lousy job of introducing its mechanics, though, and applies the concept of spin incorrectly).

-Crystalis (NES): Haven't gone too far, but this seems like a promising late-era Zelda-like.

-Nightshade (NES): I don't know how much time I'll put into this, but I'd somehow never heard of this before, an ambitious, wry point and click adventure game (shame about the real-time combat).

-Overall, I really enjoy the texture of these apps. Everything is super-quick and the library presentation reminds me of that game show from my childhood where the winner gets to run through an obstacle course full of game boxes velcroed to wall, grabbing them and sticking them on their jumpsuit. The games all look great to me on a modern screen and the save states and rewind feature make a bunch of these games actually playable in a modern context.

The bad:

-Most of the non-Nintendo games on there. Granted, just having the first-party library up is a very good persistent value, as these are some of the best games ever made to this day, but I've played most of those to death long ago. I'm sure it's a tough sell for Nintendo to get third parties to put their roms up on there compared to the virtual console days, but there are some real headscratchers that would probably be better off not being available on the service at all. It would be a harmless novelty for stuff like Tuff E Nuff or Psycho Dream to be on there if there was 100+ games on the SNES app, but as it is that kind of thing is a real headscratcher and probably not great to have up for a naive audience just checking out the earlier generations for the first time.

The Outer Wilds (PC):

I first tried this game many moons ago, but dropped it pretty quickly after finding it overwhelming and kind of tactilely nauseating. But it's held in such high regard, I eventually went back to it and forced myself to get used to the physics and absorb the scope.

I have fairly mixed feelings. On paper, it's an extremely cool idea, creating a Groundhog's Day loop within a clockwork solar system. In reality, it kind of sucked to play a lot of the time and lacked a rewarding sense of interaction/progress.

I feel like, given the pretty strict constraints of the game, they tuned it way too hard in favor of dexterity-based challenges with the extremely touchy boosters. This is exacerbated by the varying gravity between different planetoids (or lack thereof), which keeps you from ever really getting a solid intuitive grip on what's going to happen when you have to make risky maneuvers.

There's also the additional bottleneck of stingy oxygen and fuel tanks, which is simply never fun. This is even an area where they could have introduced persistent progress into the game. Like, keep it possible to finish the run from the very beginning, but allow you to expand your tanks to make the game less frustrating as you go and reward non-critical exploration, of which there is a ton. You might say that this wouldn't work with the time-reset structure, but they already fudge that with the ship's computer somehow keeping track of all your notes, so I'm sure they could have just folded that in (alien knowledge allows your system to become more efficient, e.g.)

It was perhaps unavoidable given the nature of the game, but I also felt it did a not-great job of guiding your progress. It felt like things were either rubbed in your face or way too opaque, BUT with a healthy dose of "am I really supposed to do [thing] or am I just not getting it?"

I'll list some spoilered examples of points in the game where I consulted the internet out of annoyance:

-QUESTION: Can I land on the sun station or do I have to use the blocked teleporter somehow? ANSWER: You can land on the sun station but it's really hard, better to use the teleporter.

Great . . .

POINT AWARDED TO: Me. I got close to landing and could have done it. 

-Q: Is there a hidden entrance in the rocks around the sun station teleporter that can only be found as the sand drains at a certain point, or am I supposed to jet pack around the cactuses inside the top of the tower? A: You can jet pack through the cactuses, but it's much easier to walk through as the sand drains at a certain point.

Great . . .

POINT AWARDED TO: Me. I got close to jet packing through the cactuses and could have done it.

-Q: Am I missing something about how to get to the quantum cave, or do I really need to blunder through those catacombs like two minutes after the loop starts before the sand buries them? A: Blunder through those caves.

Great . . .

POINT AWARDED TO: Me. I watched a video of the correct path because I didn't want to waste more time restarting the loop and landing on the twin, but I could have done it.

-Q: Can I use the gravity well to slingshot up into the tower of quantum knowledge or do I have to sit inside of it waiting for it to fall into the blackhole? A: You have to shoot a probe in and then use that signal to find the tower in space after it falls through the black hole.

POINT AWARDED TO: Me. You can just sit inside of it as it falls into the black hole.

-Q: Do I have to navigate through that pack of anglerfish to get to the glowing orange orb inside the bramble meteor to find the missing explorer or am I missing something? A: You're supposed to use the music signal to find the explorer elsewhere in that space.

POINT AWARDED TO: Game. I forgot about the signal tracker. BUT you do have later navigate through those fucking fish, in a really critical context.

-Q: What the **** is going on on the quantum moon surface? I'm in the north pole placement of the shrine, but it's not warping me to the eye of the universe. A: That's not the north pole placement, the geography of the moon changes based on what planetoid it's orbiting.

POINT AWARDED TO: Game. Well goddamnit, I was pretty close to the north pole and I didn't bother going back outside to check the landscape because I had already landed on the moon twice on the same orbit and didn't realize it changed.

-Q: How do I get inside the giant storm on the water planet? Do I have to blitz it from space? A: You can blitz it from space or get up from the under the current layer in the ocean.

POINT AWARDED TO: Draw. I tried both methods and didn't think either was possible.

-Q: How the **** do I get into the Ash Twin project? Is there some secret entrance to a teleporter you can only find at a certain point of sand exchange on either of the two planetoids? A: You have to wait for the "eye of the storm" of the sand funnel to pass over that teleporter building and then run in.

POINT AWARDED TO: Game. Although this is bullshit. There's no reason to think that the sand funnel works by "tornado" rules rather than being a solid column. You can apparently fudge this by running over right as it moves past or by blasting down-thrusters, but I tried both methods and didn't think it was possible. Ultimately this is the only progress-related thing that I'm sure I wouldn't have futzed out on my own, but completely critical and egregiously poorly designed.

So, as you can see, the game fostered an unease in which I was reluctant to waste time "challenging" myself with the puzzle structure, because there was good odds it wasn't even a puzzle. But because I broke and looked these things up, it didn't feel like I had holistically overcome these hurdles, even though I would've figured it out/brute forced my way eventually (aside from the last example).

I spent a lot of time engaging with the game's logic and systems, and ultimately came away with a bit of bitter taste in my mouth, despite my deep inclination toward liking this type of project. Kind of a like a bad relationship! 

TalkBack / Re: Unto The End (Switch) Review
« on: January 14, 2021, 02:54:38 PM »
I had more mixed feelings on this one. I like the concept of a cinematic platformer through a survival combat lens like this, with each encounter being a sort of puzzle that you have to figure out. And I like the incentive to dig up secrets, trade with neutral goblins, and engage in optional non-violent solutions (for instance, that fight you reference against the lantern gimp and the old guy--much better to avoid!). Additionally, I don't think any of the enemy tells are actually arbitrary, but they are inconsistent in terms of being blockable by pure reads versus learning their up-down attack string patterns.

That said, I did have the problem where it seemed like luck of the draw whether a counter strike worked or not, even when enemies were in a stagger state. The flashback tutorial also instructs you on a more robust tool set (faking, blitzing, knife-throwing) than is ever useful in the actual game, as far as I could tell. Finally, that final boss is absolute horseshit with that speed and the unblockable OHKO. I figured out a method to cheese it, but didn't have the patience to keep at it until it worked, because he has so much health. Quite a bad taste left in my mouth by quitting a game right at the very end.

Nintendo Gaming / Re: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
« on: September 22, 2020, 07:18:16 PM »
I can see people's complaints with Retro bosses but I have found they are really enjoyable. I am also a glutton for punishment. If I may bring up again my recent 200% run of DKCTP  8). In hard mode the final boss requires a perfect run since you are going in with just one heart and you only have DK, no helper monkeys. I probably spent 5-6 hours just repeating that boss fight.

But Khush, what did you think of the rocket barrel and mine cart levels?
Any favorite level(s)?
Favorite songs?
Were you getting all the puzzle pieces?

Tropical Freeze is one of my all time faves, and having beaten the game on hard mode, I don't agree about the bosses overall. They're involved, but aside from the polar bear you can speed through the phases with kool tricks. I'd suggest watching the top speed trial videos for them.

TalkBack / Re: Bethesda Acquired By Microsoft In US$7.5b Deal
« on: September 21, 2020, 07:37:45 PM »
Microsoft and its videogame endeavors are so strange. Here's a company that's never been market leader. Out of three consoles, its second is considered the most successful although that success is debatable depending on how it might be measured or looked at. Its hardware hasn't been all that exceptional and has a growing view of being unnecessary with so many of the games on the systems available on PC or the competitor's hardware. It has a handful of big name franchises tied to the brand (although these continuing studio acquisitions could change that) and a big reason for it entering the market (living room dominance versus Sony) no longer seems to be a factor 20 years later as tech and habits have changed.

I'd love to see actual figures showing the totals Microsoft has spent in console development and production (plus console repair), first party software development, third party deals, and studio acquisitions versus the profit from hardware and first party software. I just don't see how they've ever recouped any of their costs at this point. I don't get what their strategy going forward is or why they think it is worth still being invested in the video game market so heavily. It just seems like the strategy is throw money at the problem and that should eventually fix it. If Xbox wasn't backed by Microsoft's deep pockets, it probably have folded by now. I'd love to know the justification from Microsoft on why they aren't decreasing their money spent in the market especially as they keep pushing hardware to further drive up the cost of video game development which they'll be on the hook for with all these studios they've bought developing software for it.

Yeah, I've always found their foray into games kinda weird. The original Xbox would have been another 3DO if Halo hadn't happened to align. It always just seemed like something cooked up by a sweaty junior exec without any clear connection to Microsoft's core businesses or expertise, which resulted in them spending a ton of money on a boondoggle custom box that ended up neck and neck with the Gamecube. And then the 360, gifted the botched PS3 rollout, lost money for them despite its popularity because of the RROD, and then the Xbone pissed away even that Pyrrhic userbase advantage. And yet the division has fended off multiple shareholder revolts and MS leadership changes.

Even after all this time they don't have a clear aesthetic identity other than wrung-out HALOGEARSFORZA. (Their one big winner, Minecraft, is so agnostic as to be divorced from the Xbox brand.) I guess they've entered into an Uber-esque phase where they're trying to undercut their competitors with a steeply discounted game library service with the goal of . . . someday raising its price enough to be profitable? Especially after dropping nearly $8 billion on Zenimax? Or maybe this is just some brand loss-leader tech prestige thing now?

I watched a video of a Yoshi level from Galaxy 2, where you have to dick around with the pointer while platforming, and I could not come up with a viable handheld-mode solution. I guess you could have a button that auto-tongues to the closest target, but it would be really kludgy and semi-broken. I could honestly see that being enough reason to not include it in the collection. I don't think Nintendo is sweating the additional cash from a separate Wii port when the Switch is exceeding all expectations.

General Gaming / Re: What is the last game you beat? Thoughts/impressions?
« on: September 10, 2020, 07:01:08 PM »
Xbox Gamepass (PC) Continued:

Ori and the Willy Wisps:

I am on record here as finding the first game thoroughly mediocre, particularly in terms of Metroid-style design. The sequel is very similar, but significantly bigger. Within the general linear flow of the progression, however, I found the sequences better designed and more intricate, and the increased focus on horizontal mobility enhances the moment-to-moment gameplay. Swapping out the weird shooting from the first game for a Hollow Knight-esque melee-focused combat system is definitely an improvement, but the busyness of the visual design makes combat difficult to track at times, and, like with the first game, there's just too much of it. The addition of sidequests pretty much only serves to provide more secret junk to rustle up, which is fine, as the big-ass map needed the density, though I did like the races.

Like with the first game, I found the visual palette repetitive and borderline garish along the lines of Trine 2. And the sentimental narrative is even more eyerolling. Still, overall, I'd probably give this a 7/10 compared to the first game's 5/10. Weirdly, though, they removed the one formally innovative element from the first game, the incorporation of quick-saves into the basic gameplay.


I have vivid memories of renting the NES game multiple times and never making it out of the tunnel level, so I am both a prime target for a revival of this property, and one of the vast majority of original players who never saw most of the game. Outside of surface similarities (beat-em-up core, vehicle segments), nothing about this new game really feels like the old game. Instead, it's more of an interactive cartoon frequently swapping genres  and inserting minigames, which is a perfectly fine approach for a game in 2020. That said, most of the constituent elements aren't that fun, and the brawler gameplay gets tiresome quickly with its dependence on spammy ranged enemies. The tongue system was a good idea, though!


I'm cheating here, because I didn't finish this game. I quite liked it initially; it felt like the rare retro-styled game that leapt forward in time to carry on the particular visual and design ethos of ambitious 16-bit action RPGs. But the more I played of it, the less I liked it. Everything is just too much: too many systems, too much enemy health, too many screens between towns, too many branches on the skill trees, too much grinding required for trading, too many rooms in the dungeons, etc. By hour 25 or so with no end in sight, it felt like chewing a mouthful of dry carrots, and I just spontaneously quit the game and uninstalled.

It bears mentioning that the narrative presentation is actively offputting. The concept of the game is a confusing mess that feels like otaku fan fiction of itself, and the "We're instantly best friends!' character stuff is cringe city.

Super Lucky's Tale:

So this one is frustrating. I recall the original VR release of this getting pretty poor reviews, but also that the re-release for regular consoles being heavily tweaked and improved. Given the paucity of 3D platformers out there today, I was happy to check it out.

It was just okay at any given point, kind of a cross between Crash Bandicoot and Mario 3D World. Never particularly interesting or challenging, but basically competent and fulfilling a certain gaming need. Bad pizza of platforming, if you will.

But then like a week after I finished it, it turns out I was mistaken (?) and they put the actual rejiggered version out on Gamepass that's supposed to actually be good. Or at least a major improvement. I'll never play that version.   

Xbox Game Pass (PC):

My $1 intro price rolled over, but hell, I'll stick around for another month at $5. I might exhaust the catalog in that time, but I can always just drop $5 back in if a few things drop that I want to play. Although, I guess there's always the specter of them jacking the price up, but it doesn't seem to be on the near horizon.

Halo 3

Finish the fight! JK, there will be infinite Halo games. I'm not a big fan of the franchise, and in fact actively dislike the fact that it made certain of its features standard for years (very limited weapon inventory, shield regen, e.g.), but I nonetheless played through the first two games on Legendary back in the day. I got 3 on Gamefly pretty close to release, but popped it out and returned it after about an hour because it felt exactly like the previous two games and I was sick of it.

Many years later I was in the mood to revisit, and it runs great on my computer with OG graphics. And it does still feel virtually identical to the first two games. In the current landscape, however, it was moderately refreshing. It repeats the franchise's flagship sins (repetitive environments, repetitive gameplay, AI boners, weird pacing, botched checkpointing, etc.), and adds a few new ones (throw-away auxiliary items, crappy new vehicles/weapons, lack of dog-fighting, reduced enemy pool), but I mostly enjoyed blowing through the campaign on Heroic (too old to **** with Legendary bottlenecks). No collectibles, no map, no loot, no crafting, no skill tree, no stats, decent time!

As was my experience with the previous games, I had the most fun careening around trying to blow past as much combat as possible, and/or the overpowered vehicle sequences. It's bizarre they only put you in a plane for like two minutes, though. Notably, there's a hideous all-Flood level in extremely narrow corridors that 100% blows, perhaps worse than any previous Flood sequence, which always sucked. Also, the "boss fight" and final escape sequence were absolutely awful. Not sure overall why this is considered such a pinnacle, but I'm glad I can put a cap on the "real" series.


Pretty much as standard an indie cinematic platformer as can be imagined. Great hand-drawn look, decent level design, if overall very easy. Sniffing out the collectible bits tends to be more engaging, but the game is also poor at signposting how the progress works, so it's very easy to go past points of no return when you think you're trying to explore. This is a problem in a lot of these games, where "go left or right?" can screw you out of a complete run of a level. The areas in Gris are also quite long, so I have no desire to re-run them to clean up the missing stuff and possibly miss something again. On the plus side, there is no dialog, so you can completely ignore whatever "this is about emotions" thing they were going for.

The Touryist

Been interested in this for a while, but not enough to pay for it. Enter GamePass! First of all, the game looks great. They really nailed the voxel thing down to tiny details, and it definitely augmented the whole experience. Overall, it's quite a pleasant time, and keeps you chugging after progress and interaction as you open up more islands. Ultimately many of the side quests devolve into busywork with little tangible reward, but it's entertaining enough rooting around in the environments to keep you engaged, and the majority of the minigames are engaging enough in their own right. Weirdly, though, there are a few extremely irritating platforming bottlenecks that I don't understand how they made it through play-testing. There's one particular sequence where you have to jump on rotating orbs to finish a temple that just blew my mind how it existed.

Xbox Gamepass (PC):

I saw that this was $1 for a month to start, and wanted to play Carrion, so I signed myself up. The desktop app is weird and kinda terrible, and makes you jump through dumb sign-on hoops, and a good third of the time the games don't boot right, but given how cheap it is, these are forgivable quirks.


I was excited for this, but it's just kinda okay. It makes a strong first impression because the monster is fun to control, and the gamefeel is quite different from much else out there. Unfortunately it's very linear, not really a metroid-type title, and fundamentally repetitive. Combat is more of a hassle than anything, and the level design is rather plain and one-note.

The Messenger

I'd been wanting to try this out for a while, and was happy to find it on the service. Ultimately, though, I found it somewhat hollow and repetitive. Some of the boss fights are fun, but most of the regular level space feels very similar to traverse regardless of whatever gimmicks are introduced here and there. The big "metroid' switch up is not actually that interesting or engaging, and the 8-bit 16-bit lightworld/darkworld flips are pretty arbitrary--nothing ever feels different.

Sunset Overdrive

One of the few Xbox titles that looked interesting this generation, and I was pleased to find this runs perfectly well on my laptop. But boy, what a whiff of a game. Once you unlock all your traversal abilities, it's genuinely fun to cruise around the map, but that only goes so far when the combat is a miserable chore and the level design is by-and-large the dullest open world suite you could imagine. There are maybe four or five story missions that actually leverage the movement toward engaging challenges, and those are easily negated by repeated, dreadful, mandatory base-defense sequences.

General Gaming / Re: PS5 Reveal Impressions
« on: June 15, 2020, 11:58:30 AM »
The whole "you have to watch them in 4K" thing is a bit puzzling to me. The games look like what they look like to me on a 1080 screen. There's no fuzziness at this point. The fact that they're rendering at a higher resolution than I can see does not impress me. Nothing that was shown seemed like it needed 4K for gameplay purposes and I don't feel like I'm missing any essential essence.

I agree with you in principle that 4K is excessive. I only upgrade TVs maybe once every decade, and I'm quite happy with my 1080p TV (which doesn't even support HDR, the buzzword the PS4 Pro was sold on), so I really don't care about all this 4K "Ultra HD" crap. I really doubt the vast majority of people will care, either, for at least 5 years until 4K becomes more widely adopted.

That said, I find the "nothing that was shown seemed like it NEEDED 4K for gameplay purposes" argument to be rather silly. Screen resolution never has and never will have anything to do with gameplay in non-competitive games. It's about matching a game's visual fidelity to modern display devices. If you're a big tech person & you have that 4K 60 in. TV, you want your games to support that resolution so they don't look slightly blurry on your TV's upscaling.

Yes, I'm aware of how televisions work. I was listing an additional reason why there's no particular allure for a 4K upgrade. I'd say the resolution certainly did affect things functionally up until pretty recently. I remember being pissed that I couldn't read the on-screen text on Dead Rising on the Xbox 360 because I had an SD screen.

Well, to THAT end my biggest pet peeve of this generation is games displaying text using microscopic font, something that should not happen since I HAVE a 60 in. 1080p TV.

Imagine how much tinier they can make the text in 4K

General Gaming / Re: PS5 Reveal Impressions
« on: June 14, 2020, 10:37:45 AM »
The whole "you have to watch them in 4K" thing is a bit puzzling to me. The games look like what they look like to me on a 1080 screen. There's no fuzziness at this point. The fact that they're rendering at a higher resolution than I can see does not impress me. Nothing that was shown seemed like it needed 4K for gameplay purposes and I don't feel like I'm missing any essential essence.

I agree with you in principle that 4K is excessive. I only upgrade TVs maybe once every decade, and I'm quite happy with my 1080p TV (which doesn't even support HDR, the buzzword the PS4 Pro was sold on), so I really don't care about all this 4K "Ultra HD" crap. I really doubt the vast majority of people will care, either, for at least 5 years until 4K becomes more widely adopted.

That said, I find the "nothing that was shown seemed like it NEEDED 4K for gameplay purposes" argument to be rather silly. Screen resolution never has and never will have anything to do with gameplay in non-competitive games. It's about matching a game's visual fidelity to modern display devices. If you're a big tech person & you have that 4K 60 in. TV, you want your games to support that resolution so they don't look slightly blurry on your TV's upscaling.

Yes, I'm aware of how televisions work. I was listing an additional reason why there's no particular allure for a 4K upgrade. I'd say the resolution certainly did affect things functionally up until pretty recently. I remember being pissed that I couldn't read the on-screen text on Dead Rising on the Xbox 360 because I had an SD screen.

General Gaming / Re: Games Industry Death Watch 2010-present
« on: June 13, 2020, 09:04:47 PM »
Well, if WB sells off the games division, they'll surely still want to make money on games based on their properties. Presumably Rocksteady, WB Montreal, whoever, aren't just going to trash their projects. I would think it'll just become more like the Star Wars game licensing.

General Gaming / Re: PS5 Reveal Impressions
« on: June 13, 2020, 08:59:31 PM »
The whole "you have to watch them in 4K" thing is a bit puzzling to me. The games look like what they look like to me on a 1080 screen. There's no fuzziness at this point. The fact that they're rendering at a higher resolution than I can see does not impress me. Nothing that was shown seemed like it needed 4K for gameplay purposes and I don't feel like I'm missing any essential essence.

General Gaming / PS5 Reveal Impressions
« on: June 11, 2020, 06:42:20 PM »

Didn't see a thread, so I thought I'd start one for posterity.

I got off work an hour early, so went ahead and booted up the stream despite having no original intention to watch the reveal.

Main takeaway: They hyped up the idea that this was the biggest generational leap yet, and then showed stuff that mostly felt like a generic realization of the future of gaming from 2002.

Assorted thoughts:

-Boy, sure glad they started things out with a montage of PS4 games, and then an extended GTA V trailer.

-Also, how many minutes were burned on pretentious CGI vignettes of the controller symbols?

-A big emphasis on what felt like movie trailers, usually not followed by actual gameplay.

-The cat-in-robo-world game seemed like one of the only titles that might have novel gameplay mechanisms, probably not at all tied to the necksjen horsepower.

-Sackboy looks like a late-to-market Mario 3D World clone, but less good.

-Ratchet and Clank 8 looks a lot like previous Ratchet and Clank games, but with snazzier scene transitions and a novelty teleport mechanic

-Tim Burton's Monster Hunter looked cool, but again, doesn't seem to be particularly tech dependent.

-I've thought before that some persistent time-loop type games might be a genuinely new direction games could take with SSDs, and there were two presented. But Deathloop's actual gameplay just seems to be some multiplayer Dishonored thing, and Returnal looked like a pretty generic TPS, and is maybe just a roguelike?

-Solar Ash looked cool for the couple of seconds that appeared to be in-game, but there's also no indication of what it actually is, and I really didn't like Hyper Light Drifter.

-Some robot platformer thing? I really couldn't tell what that was and they seemed a little embarrassed about it.

-Ghostwire gave me big Gamecube-era high-concept game vibes, and not in a good way.

-There were a couple of third-person games that blended together that involved jumping around jungle-y environments, and otherwise didn't make an impression.

-What felt like 15 minutes of Gran Turismo gameplay that seemed exactly like every previous game?

-Resident Evil will continue in the bad direction of VII.

-Hitman 11

-Horizon 2 looked very impressive graphically, but also unclear if anything was actually in-game. Also did not like what I played of the previous game.

-Oddworld Soulstorm: A busier, more graphically advanced iteration of a formula that I do not care for.

-The console itself looks like a Glacier Ice Alienware router.

And that's about my takeway. Granted, my view is a bit jaundiced, but I was expecting at least a couple of showstoppers, and didn't feel any were presented. In general, it felt like a lot of stuff that had attention-catching filmic intros just turned into "oh, you shoot stuff and/or hit stuff." Kudos, though, for highlighting family friendly content.

General Gaming / Re: What are you playing?
« on: June 08, 2020, 08:03:43 PM »
Stadia Trial: The Conclusion (?)

So my trial carried over into one more month of free games, so I've jumped back in.

Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid:

I didn't really know what this was, but played it for about 45 minutes. A budget fighting game with a repetitive and non-sensical story mode (why am I randomly playing as bad guys immediately after playing the same fight as the good guy?). Not my genre in any case, so I'll let this lie.

Steam World Heist:

I'm not much of a fan of the Dig games, so I was reluctant to try this, but it was a free chance, so what the hell. I got hooked pretty quick, but like the Dig games, despite getting snared by the gameplay loop, I'm not sure it's actually good.

I'm a weird case where I tend to enjoy strategy games, but also in general hate endless spawning enemies, which is pretty endemic to strategy games. I didn't mind it so much in Codename Steam, for instance, where it was more universal and part of the general "push forward to objective" pressure design. In Heist, though, with the randomly generated but claustrophobic levels, it tends to twist my tail, as the placement of the spawn doors can really put you at an arbitrary disadvantage. And the specifically harder levels heavily lean on the spawns.

Speaking of the randomly generated levels, I really fail to see the point here, as it seems to fly in the face of the whole "strategy" thing. Like, the potential layouts for any given level aren't that different, and just mainly serve to put you at an annoying random disadvantage without altering any actual fundamental approach. I don't see how this game wouldn't have been better with tightly crafted bespoke levels. Which also plays into a weird oscillation between levels feeling trivially easy or punishing.

Character progression is also kind of whack, I think? I feel like there's very little reason to sub in new underleveled characters when I have a tight three-person team from almost the get-go with short, medium, and long-range skills. I think there's only been one four-character level, as well, and I think I'm over halfway through.

Abort penalties are irritating, as I'm going for three-star runs on each level (don't have much time left on this Stadia trial), but also, I seemed to quickly run out of stuff worth buying from the shops.

Maybe I'm just missing it, but it also seems like you can't scope out the enemy movement grids; it's pretty difficult to maintain a sense of what ranges are in play, particularly with all the ladders (Rabbids Kingdom battle has a similar issue, I think, but you can at least preview the senselessly large movement grids).

I'm still playing it though, so . . .

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