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    Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (PS4)    by   jp       (Dec 5th, 2023 at 18:54:47)

    Ok, I finished the Valkyrie story and started on the next one (Pooka) and...ok, there's a lot going on! I was finally able to figure out how to use the special powers I'd been spending points on (the ones that use the power bar - that reloads not too slowly). The OTHER special abilities used PP points that are much fewer and harder/longer to refresh.

    And, was it fun - for sure - I guess I got the most out of the experience enjoying the way the maps were set up and slowly understanding the game's combat system and how to engage with it. Yes, a few fights were hard (didn't clear in the 1st pass) but this was all entirely my fault since I wasn't paying attention to my hit points and should have been chugging/using fruit and potions more often. I was playing on Normal (not hard nor easy) but still. Worth it? Yes. Am I excited to play the other 8 characters or so? Not so much. I think it's 8...the saved file has a bunch of stars and when I cleared Valkyrie, one star went "light" and the others stayed the same so I'm assuming it's one star per character/story.

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    The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 3rd, 2023 at 15:13:46)

    I cannot type anymore, my hand is so cramped. The Textorcist is such a great idea for a game. The story is silly, there are typos throughout the dialogue, the music loops in a strangely distracting way, the function of items and various UI elements is not transparent, but my goodness, I loved playing this. The most intense typing game. This was a freebie on Epic (and maybe Amazon, too), and sounded so strange, that I had to try.

    You play as the titular Ray Bibbia, an exorcist trying to root out demons from the Vatican and save his daughter. Ray has a holy Bible from which he shoots "hollets" (holy bullets; the puns and portmanteaus are painful) at demons by reading. You, the player, type the text that Ray reads. It sounds simple enough, but takes some next-level dexterity. The first enemies (and every enemy is a boss fight) stand still and shoot at you. Then, the enemies start moving, slowly at first, then quickly, then one takes up half the screen, another teleports. Their bullet hell projectiles begin easy, one at a time, as you practice typing and moving. Then multiple projectiles, homing projectiles, projectiles shot at various speeds, exploding projectiles, giant projectiles, lasers, an entire screen of projectiles, and on and on.

    You might be thinking, how can you dodge all these projectiles, move, and type at the same time? Good question. The default key binding is to move with the arrow keys, which means you are moving with one hand and typing with the other, or you are moving with your right hand, then quickly typing with both hands, then right hand back to the arrows to move again. This quickly becomes untenable. I changed the key bindings first to Shift + WASD to move, then because that's not home position, Shift + ESDF. That was the trick. So, to move, bring your pinky down on shift and use ESDF (same movements as WASD but one key to the right). If you need to use ESDF to type, lift your pinky and get the letter out, then put it back and keep dodging those projectiles. While you're moving with your left hand, you can type with your right hand.

    This is all complicated enough when you are typing complete sentences in English like "I cast you into darkness. Come to the divine light of Jesus Christ." or something. Then the game starts throwing Latin at you. "Et absinthium dissisitum obliteratis jesu sau aeternum quotaun vadis..." (I typed Latin-esque gibberish, and that's exactly what it feels like while playing!). The letter combinations and hand movements to make them are unfamiliar, which significantly increases the difficulty. And this is happening as the bosses are getting harder. THEN! Some of the bosses start messing with your bible. One scrambled Latin words. Come on! So not only are you grappling with typing "aeternium glorius facie suae diabolis," but now you have to wrap your head around "aetrmiut sirulgo icfai uesa bsaliido." Another boss changes some "I"s to "1"s and "O"s to "0"s. So then you're like, "aetern1um gl0r1us fac1e suae diab0l1s," and COME ON!

    The game is nuts. I loved it. I died my fair share of times, but I'm a very fast and accurate typist, so I feel like I did well. One death on the last boss, for example, no deaths on the next-to-last boss, maybe three or four deaths on the third-from-the-last. I had to get up and take a break a few times during that trio because my hands were starting to cramp/shake and my nerves were so on edge. I was literally laughing during the last boss because of how absurdly difficult it was and how absurdly close I was to winning, but I COULD NOT get my fingers to type the letter C right before the final "Amen" that would have finished it, while moving through the most ridiculous bullet hell part of the game.

    There is a DLC that I appear to have, but the game won't recognize it for some reason. Seems like it's a known issue. I would definitely play more of this, despite the irony of a typing game having loads of typos.

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    The Walking Dead: A New Frontier (XBX X/S)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 3rd, 2023 at 08:58:07)

    Looks like Patrick and I started this way back in March! I remember he downloaded it on a whim, and I was concerned that he made a poor choice for us to spend our precious co-op gaming time. I've played a bunch of other Telltale Walking Dead and other franchise games--the highly reviewed ones--and loved them. This spinoff had a mediocre Metacritic score and, turns out, is a mediocre game. To be fair, it took us eight or nine months to complete, and I'm sure we would have enjoyed it more had we been more consistent, but it's not terribly compelling.

    A New Frontier introduces new characters with new relationships to explore, and features Clem, but felt like a mishmash of scenarios from previous games, choices that didn't matter all that much, and characters whose shoes it was hard to step into and who often acted illogically. By the end, we were just laughing at what the characters were doing. For example, there is a scene in Richmond with the main character, Javier, and his brother, David, hitting baseballs in a batting cage (you know, a typical zombie apocalypse activity). You see, Javier was formerly a baseball player, and you know this because he wears a baseball jersey in every scene throughout the game, including flashbacks, and people recognize him and remember him for playing baseball (including a young kid who asks him for an autograph, even though this game is set four years after the beginning of the apocalypse, so the kid would have been like four years old when it started, and why would a four-year-old have been so obsessed with a baseball player, unless we are to believe that Javier was like Babe Ruth level famous). Anyway, David, whose successes were obscured by Javier's fame, remains bitter, and becomes more and more irrationally angry in the batting cages as Javier hits baseballs and says things like, "And the crowd goes wild!" You can miss the balls on purpose, which presumably doesn't remind David that Javier overshadowed him, but David becoming irate at this was so absurdly funny. As the game goes on, there are more such absurd interactions.

    And at the end of the game, when Telltale breaks down your choices and tells you what kind of relationships you had with other characters, I'm not sure their conclusions were accurate. I wish I remembered which one I am specifically thinking of, but there was one that was the opposite of what it certainly should have been. This isn't the scenario, but hypothetically, it was something like "You acted romantically toward Trish," after being mean to her in every interaction. Yeah, this was definitely a weak entry.

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    Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (PS4)    by   jp       (Nov 26th, 2023 at 18:56:30)

    I picked this game up in Italy many years ago only because I knew it was famous/critically well-received but I had no real knowledge of it before I plopped in a few days ago.

    And wow, I'm glad I did buy it - I don't think I'll play it all because it seems really long - and I'm really enjoying how it does things differently. And, it reminds me of other Vanillaware games I've played (something Crown on PSVita?). The game seems to be an action RPG where the RPG part is all about levelling up and unlocking new powers and things, and the action part is a fast-paced combat with different moves and jumps and things - all taking place on a 2D screen/environment.

    The overall premise is neat as well - you start as a little girl in a library, there's a cute cat, and a book on the floor. The book is "Valkyrie" and is basically the first section of the game - the story of a character who's a valkyrie and the stuff she goes through and does. This book as (so far) 5 chapters - each taking place in a different part of the world and, from another book on the library it looks like there will be a few more books to play and that their storylines will overlap/intersect in what I presume are interesting ways.

    Here are a few things I've found interesting:

    (a) Vanillaware's games famously (often?) have character designs that are hypersexualized - with female characters with huge bosoms and male characters with hypermuscled bodies. I have not seen the former in this game, though the latter does appear. I'm kind of thankful for that tbh.

    (b) It seems like most of the levelling up in the game happens not through combat. Rather, it happens in the context of eating stuff! (and there's whole systems for planting seeds, eating fruits, finding recipes, buying meals, and more). A lot of the healing items (potions) will also increase your base HP a few points, which is interesting as it means that somtimes it's worth "wasting" items even when you're not wounded...

    (c) Each chapter has a map of connected areas - some areas with multiple exit points and such - but each area is "circular"- they're all 2D mostly wider than tall (some areas are taller than wide, but none of the areas are that large - at least so far) - and if you continue moving, say, left, you eventually come back to where you began. This is even represented with a little circle in the bottom right of the screen - and the UI does a pretty good job and helping you know where you are. It's a simple system that seems really counter-intuitive or confusing, but I was surprised by how quickly it made sense.

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    The Procession to Calvary (PC)    by   jp       (Nov 26th, 2023 at 18:41:37)

    (didn't take that long, tbh - I think I logged two hours on steam all told?)

    I just wanted to comment that I only just realized that all of the game's (Steam) achievements are quotes from the bible! And... they're quite something I must say. I think my favorite is the one you get when you slap a bishop on the butt (the bishop faces away from the screen as the pray):

    Spank the Bishop

    But --- I say to you, not to resist the evil, but whoever shall slap thee on thy right cheek, tur to him also the other. - Matthew 5:39

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    Wuppo (PC)    by   dkirschner

    Cute, funny, exploration platformer sort of game. -------- Fantastic, so charming, and such a breath of fresh air.
    most recent entry:   Thursday 18 July, 2019
    Yet another free game that I'd never heard of before from...from where...probably Humble Bundle since it was in my Steam library. The number of great free stuff from Humble Bundle (or $1, okay), Twitch Prime (free with Amazon Prime), Epic Games, and etc. is getting wild. It's like I don't have to buy games anymore. I bought two cheap things from the Steam summer sale (because it felt weird not to!), and I may not have bought anything over the winter one. And I've still got a massive backlog.

    Anyway, Wuppo. Odd name, odd game. What a hidden gem this was. It's like a narrative puzzle-platformer RPG hybrid thingy. It is cute and charming and funny and really well made. You play as a "wum," which is a little creature that reminded me of Strongbad's head on 4 legs. You're chilling in the "Wumhouse," where a lot of wums live, and the manager gets pissed at you for dripping ice cream all over the floors, so he kicks you out. But not before you meet a bunch of the quirky residents, take a lot of baths, play a quiz game to get a disguise to get to the 5th floor so that you can clean it, fight a giant dust monster, fight a giant ice cream monster, steal a train ticket, take over operation of the bell tower, help a wum paint a picture of fireworks, and more. Thus begins your adventure as you leave Wumhouse and look for a new place to live.

    During the game, you learn about the history of the world and its "races," largely through collectible film strips that you bring to wise wums (and one wise fnakker), who help you interpret the films. You'll encounter a wide variety of creature types (like the mud-loving fnakkers, the peaceful zen-like blussers, and the capitalistic splenhakkers). For example, you quickly learn that there was a big war between the wums and the fnakkers, and the wums cast the fnakkers into a giant sinkhole. Are the fnakkers really dead and gone, or are they still alive down there in that sinkhole??

    Gameplay in Wuppo generally involves talking to NPCs and completing missions that move the story forward, opening up new areas to explore. You'll acquire a variety of items (and lots of hats) that you can equip one at a time. Most items serve some useful purpose. For example, you get a "popo" hat that can pull levers and doors, various items that let you see in the dark, a "workman's hat" that lets you blend in with wums in Popo City and gives you a mustache, and on and on. You do use a gun to fight, but it looks like it shoots paint, and you can modify it in a few different ways. There are a lot of boss fights (about 20 total, I believe, and a handful are optional), and these are really fun. I didn't have any real problem with any until the final boss, but I eventually got him after 5 or 6 tries. The focus of the game is not on combat, even though you have to fight to progress, and I really like that. It didn't feel violent or combative, which is a nice change of pace. The antagonisms are sillier. A related thing is that you don't have HP, you have "happiness." You can increase your happiness by doing nice things for NPCs. This was a cool way to incorporate HP in the game.

    There is all sorts of stuff to do in the game that isn't related to the main story. You can fish for items, you can go to a theme park and ride rides. There is an entire island chain that has nothing to do with your main mission, but you can go explore it anyway, talk to characters there, swim out far and see what's out in the ocean. I took a train one time and it stopped at a cafe that I never went in (because I had no money to spend at the time, but I'm sure there were other neat things there to do). The game is so creative and so well done. The art looks like MS Paint. The characters are really expressive. The characters and dialogue are always funny. The audio fits the game like a glove.

    Definitely worth just getting lost in the game's charm for the duration. It's never too hard, though there are some challenging puzzles and areas (such as Redav Kned's guest house) that will make you feel great for completing them. Took me near 11 hours. Minus a few points for some bugs (screen size was stuck small sometimes, first time I tried to play I couldn't get the sound working and nothing would fix it) and the time I crashed the game by worming my way off screen. I was worried that I would start and then not be able to finish because the audio wouldn't work or the screen size would lock small, but it was okay! How do people not know about this game?! It probably just got lost in the crowd in Steam. Play it and tell other people to play it!

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