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    Grim Fandango Remastered (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 25th, 2016 at 21:55:32)

    Funny old adventure game from Tim Schafer. I never played it back in the day, and I'm glad I picked up the remastered version on Steam. It works well with a controller, though there are some directional issues after screen transitions. Grim Fandango's got a quirky story and gets mega bonus points from me for having a lot of references to Marxism.

    The plot is basically that main character Manny Calavera is a salesman of sorts in the underworld. The system is corrupt, and he winds up chasing after a girl. He finds himself on the side of some revolutionaries and travels through the underworld across four years to help them dismantle capitalism. Wait no, they don't dismantle capitalism! Manny just gets the girl and kills the bad guy. But he does meet communists and beatniks and striking workers, and carries around what is essentially a pocket Communist Manifesto for a while. It's all very amusing.

    In true 90s adventure game fashion, the puzzles are nonsensical. I made it about an hour (halfway through Year 1) before turning to a walkthrough, and shortly thereafter just used it for the rest of the game (thanks Eurogamer!). Here's what stumped me enough to finally quit thinking for myself:

    "Sneak into Domino's empty office via the window, then hit the punching bad inside until you get a blue mouthguard [???]. Take it, walk over to the desk, then take the piece of coral from the drawer. Leave the office via the same window you crawled in through. Make your way back to the rope and grab the other end of it [I had no idea there were two ends]. Tie the coral to the rope, then throw it towards the ladder [???]. You can now make your way across to the ladder and climb all the way up onto the roof. Walk along the roof until you come to a ventilation point. Use the cat balloon on the bowl here [why the hell would I use a balloon on a bowl?], then use the bread from the stall by the clown on the bowl. When the birds come over to nibble on the bread, they'll burst the balloon and be startled enough to fly off [who saw that coming?!]. You can now nab their eggs."

    Ah, CLASSIC. It doesn't help that a lot of times when you use an object, you're not standing in just the right place, so the action doesn't trigger. That is SO annoying when you think or know you are doing something right, and you get a false negative. Totally throws you off the trail.

    I was talking with a friend about video game hint lines from back in the day. She never used them; my parents never let me, but I totally would have been on the phone with Nintendo about The Legend of Zelda and LucasArts about The Dig and Full Throttle, and would have wasted a lot of money, I'm sure. Were we smarter back then? More patient? Easier to play these games if we think like kids and don't bind ourselves with logic? You can get into the logic of these games and it makes them more doable, but man, it's some serious effort. It's easier to read Foucault than figure out these puzzles.

    But that's what walkthroughs are for! Making old games fun! I really enjoyed my playthrough of Grim Fandango. The writing is excellent, and yeah the plot and puzzles are weird, but it's funny and got a lot of love put into it, you can tell. Looking forward to the Day of the Tentacle remaster next time.

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    Nonstop Knight (iPd)    by   jp       (Jul 22nd, 2016 at 11:20:52)

    I've hit the first real spike in the difficulty curve - I've been "stuck" in the 120 level range for a few days now which is a bit tiring. Normally when you hit a wall you "ascend" (re-start from the beginning), get a bunch of tokens, spend the tokens on permanent upgrades to your character (all the money and equipment is reset) and head back down. Due to the permanent upgrades, this time around you sail through the previous wall, until you hit the next one a few more levels down. I can't recall when the next wall normally happens, but this time I've been stuck in the 120-range for a while. I can make progress, but it's very slow, painful, and not very rewarding. We'll see how much longer I bear with it.

    On the other hand, they just added a new "thing" to collect/upgrade: pets! They're heavily time-gated, but at a bit of variety and mid-term goals to work towards.

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    Tharsis (PC)    by   jp       (Jul 21st, 2016 at 11:36:23)

    It figures that as soon as I taught the kids to play (we did one game with me driving the bus and explaining what was going on before they played mostly on their own), they'd get to Mars. Only one instance of cannibalism, but only one survivor. But still!

    The game's sheen wears of a little once you get to Mars, but I still plan on playing more just to see if I can pull it off without the anthropophagia. Of course, I'll also need a fair amount of luck as well...

    I started playing because I was interested in seeing whether it's a good game to play for ethics class. It seems less interesting to me now than it was then, but I think I need to chew on it a bit more before I decide.

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    Spec Ops: The Line (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 21st, 2016 at 09:37:12)

    I know the answers to my questions, but they've been bouncing around in my head for a week after playing the excellent Spec Ops: The Line: How is this game not more popular? How are people so into Call of Duty and Battlefield but not this? Why don't Call of Duty and Battlefield tackle tough questions about war like this game does? This is the best military-themed shooter I've played possibly ever. The story is brilliant. I don't care if it forces you into committing war crimes; that's the point: to think about this kind of thing from the perspective of soldiers who are stressed out, under fire, surviving, negotiating between commands, protocols, common sense, personal morality, ethical responsibility, mission objectives, situational factors, etc., etc. Until there are more games that quit letting us all play the hero all the time, we aren't going to de-glorify war and we aren't going to understand what it is like to be in situations where, yeah you theoretically have a choice, but it is constrained to the point of nonexistence or pure reaction and sometimes really bad things result.

    War is traumatic, not entertainment, and that's what Spec Ops argues. It puts you in a terrible situation, a wrecked Dubai caught in a sand storm. Another Army group, the Damned 33rd, led by a guy named Konrad, had previously gone in en route from Afghanistan to evacuate the population, but they ended up taking over the ruined city and establishing martial law. So you and your team are sent in to recon for survivors after a radio broadcast from the Damned 33rd somehow gets out from behind the sand storm wall. You quickly learn that the Damned 33rd under Konrad has carried out atrocities against the Emirate civilians and foreign workers stuck in the city, so you (as the commander of your 3-man squad) decide to intervene. What follows is an epic journey to the heart of Dubai and ultimately through the mind of your character. This game takes clear influence from Heart of Darkness (character Konrad, character Kurtz, author Conrad) and Apocalypse Now.

    I can't say too much about the story without spoiling key moments, but if you've read anything about this game, then you've read about the white phosphorous scene. It is horrific, far more upsetting than I had imagined. It makes me think what it might have been like in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Tokyo and Dresden or some other place that was obliterated by people putting the "greater good" above the lives of tens of thousands of civilians. It makes me think about the people who gave the orders for these bombings and the people who created weapons of war and Oppenheimer's famous quoting from the Bhagavad-Gita, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." It makes me think about drone attacks in the Middle East, and about the power of fear and moral crusading and the consequences of (competing) rigid ideologies.

    And there are more scenes than just the white phosphorous one that elicit similar reactions, though it was by far the heaviest. But this is the kind of thing people need to experience, the perspective that people need to be exposed to, even if they disagree in the end. In video games, it's a perspective on war that hasn't been much explored, the perspective that war is hell; it is not about playing the hero. I look forward to playing some other recent games that challenge dominant perspectives on war, that challenge the good guy/bad guy dichotomy, that make me think. I just got This War of Mine during the last Steam sale, which provides a civilian perspective, and I've got Valiant Hearts queued up to play soon.

    Spec Ops: The Line is a really important game thematically. It's not the most innovative shooter or anything. I found the gameplay fun, engaging, and polished, but this is the kind of game that by the end you are playing to see what happens. There is a cool mechanic with the sand. If you see sand falling or piled up outside a window, you can shoot the glass out and cause a sand avalanche that drowns or stuns enemies. Anyway, that's about it. Do yourself a favor and play this!

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    Assassin's Creed III: Liberation (VITA)    by   jp       (Jul 19th, 2016 at 21:02:55)

    I have a really positive bias towards this game - mostly because of how little love it's received for it's title character! However, I'm about 2 hrs (maybe less?) in and I'm mostly disappointed...

    a. I've had two technical issues that have required I restart the game. They both happened quite close to each other in terms of time - which made things more frustrating. The first one seems like a silly oversight. I was playing with "the lady", who is not allowed to climb, in an area by the docks. I managed to fall in the water and was simply unable to climb out (this despite the UI saying press x to climb, that only resulted in diving underwater). The second problem was when I entered a shop at the same time as a band of thugs started pestering. As soon as I left the shop, the character got into the "I'm in attack mode" pose which weirdly enough, shunted her into a foyer of sorts behind the door of the shop. There was no way to get out. I also got lost because I misunderstood an element on the map. I was supposed to find a warehouse but the map icon was "memory start" or something like that. I assumed that it referred to the location where I started, and so I spent about 45 minutes wandering around like a fool.

    b. AFAIK, there is not modern day character in this AC, which I think is somewhat unusual? I think the fiction is that the player is the modern day character and that you're basically re-living someone else's memories (sort of like the movie "Strange Days"). It's a neat fiction and they treat the game companies (Abstergo) as real companies - they are even part of the opening credits.

    c. Although (so far) you only control one character, there are (at least) three different disguises you can wear. They act sort of like character classes. The lady can charm people but can't climb, the slave can climb and sneak around but can't...charm, and the third I think is the really good fighter character. I'm not sure since I haven't unlocked that costume although it appears in the UI.

    d. Each of the disguises are interlinked in a way I think is pretty cool. If you kill people with the lady, her notoriety goes up (and presumably bad things happen when it gets too high). You can reduce it by killing witnesses. However, you can kill witnesses when wearing any disguise! For the slave costume you need to tear down wanted posters. I have no idea about the third class.

    So far I'm enjoying it a bit - not too much because, for me at least, the slave character is the most fun (all the climbing and acrobatics), but I've mostly had to play as the lady - who just sort of walks around....

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    Random

    Fa├žade (PC)    by   gamegirl265

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Friday 13 October, 2006
    Hmm...I kind of changed my mind since the last post. I tried being slightly rude and I got kicked out almost right away. For this time, I tried not saying anything the entire time. Instead, I found out that if you moved close enough to either of the characters, the cursor would change into one of three others. The others included the options to hug, comfort, or kiss the character in front of you. So, I changed my strategy slightly once again to see what the characters would do if I didn't say a word the entire time but I would hug, comfort, or kiss them depending on the situation and the previous comments and would pick up random objects in the room. Needless to say I got a lot of interesting comments. Once Trip said after I 'comforted' Grace twice in a row "Jesus...! Look I'm going to leave you two alone to keep praising each other. Excuse me." and left to go to the kitchen. Another time he said "Jess, would you quit it with that already, it's making me ill!" and I attempted to comfort Trip after that comment and then Grace said "Oh, well... you seem to remember how much Trip likes getting attention." Then once I kissed Trip once as he was trying to make drinks, I got a lot of nervous laughter from the two characters...it was almost like the spontaneous action completely stumped the two of them. I was eventually kicked out after about 15 minutes of silent hugging, comforting, kissing, and random object interaction...

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