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    Remnant II (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 12th, 2024 at 13:33:05)

    Just finished. Ended up burning through, and would have been even faster if I didn't listen to so much dialogue trying to make sense of the story. (Hint: don't bother!). Remnant II is an interesting game. It's some mixture of a third-person looter shooter, Dark Souls, and a procedurally generated game. You can also play co-op, and I almost shelved it to play with a friend before deciding to solo it.

    Well, not quite solo. You pick a character class to start (an "archetype"). I chose the Handler, who gets a dog companion. The dog tanks for you. It reminded me of playing a Hunter in WoW, and the game itself kind of reminded me of an MMORPG too. So, in Remnant II, really, you can ignore the story. Imagine playing a lore-heavy game. Then imagine that game attempts to tell you all of its lore at once, and that you have a ton more lore from disparate worlds to hear about every few hours as you encounter new worlds. TLDR: You're attempting to stop the bad stuff. Follow the exclamation marks. Shoot everything in your way.

    You get two guns and a melee weapon, as well as four ring slots, an amulet slot, a "relic" slot, and armor slots. I literally NEVER found a piece of armor, so I'm not sure what's going on there. I also couldn't talk to the armorer in town. Like, there was never a dialogue option; he ignored me. I used the same "long gun" I got as an early reward the entire game, and then I did craft and upgrade a special small automatic pistol, which had unlimited ammo. That was super useful. By the end, it was almost as strong as the rifle, so I'd expend the rifle's ammo then switch to it until I'd collected more rifle ammo. I can imagine that the game might get frustrating later on or on harder difficulties without having an infinite ammo gun. At the very beginning, it tells you to purchase ammo from town because you'll run out. Well, I never ran out!

    Shoot shoot, kill kill. It's intense fun, and boss battles were a real treat, very creative. Some of them were pretty hard, especially the final boss, who has two phases and in the second phase "glitches" in and out (keep track of what attacks he was doing before he glitched!). My favorite were the cubes in the labyrinth. There were, say, 8 cubes, several floating and several rolling on the ground. You, in the labyrinth, have to avoid (1) energy orbs and energy walls that the airborne ones shoot and (b) being crushed by the cubes on the ground. You damage them by shooting lights on some of their sides. Doing so creates craters in the cubes on the ground, which you can stand under to avoid being crushed if they try to flop on top of you. Of all the cubes I've fought in video games, these were among the best (what a weird sentence). There is also a boss that wants you to kill it but doesn't want you to kill it (and tries to convince you to kill the other part of it), a couple that attempt to trick you, and an AI that takes over a train.

    Your other goal in exploring the worlds (aside from following that exclamation mark and killing the bosses) is collecting loot to use to upgrade your gear. NPCs in town will do this for you, and it provided motivation to poke around the worlds. I keep saying "the worlds." Remnant is meant to be replayed. You can, at any time, "re-roll" the world you're in. You keep all your stuff, and the world randomizes. Each world is unique, and there are secrets and special bosses in each. I never re-rolled anything (went straight through, as I said), but I imagine that some of the stuff that I didn't really see (like armor, inexplicably) takes some time traversing multiple worlds to get. A couple times, I had a choice, and if you go back through, you can make the alternate choice and get a different reward. So, players who replay worlds are rewarded not only with new layouts, different bosses, and so on, but also with all the rewards they missed in previous attempts.

    You can also get a second archetype. I had no idea how to do this, and it didn't happen for me by the end of the game. I looked it up, and apparently you collect various special items, bring them to a vendor, and he unlocks new archetypes for you. I don't recall the game telling me that and am not sure I had any items to get a second one anyway. But the Handler was fun enough.

    That's about it. Tons of shooting that feels good, epic boss fights, lots of running around levels to find where the next exclamation mark is, looting stuff, upgrading your character. And a convoluted story. I would ignore the story, ignore the NPCs. Treat the game as a single-player or co-op looter shooter or MMO, enjoy upgrading your things, and play with different builds. I won't revisit it, but it was definitely something a bit different, yet familiar, to spend time with.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Jul 12th, 2024 at 13:37:24.

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    Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 11th, 2024 at 08:00:03)

    Well, Respawn knocked this one out of the park. I'm so glad I tried the previous game on my brother's recommendation. Because of that, I was looking forward to this one. I was worried right off the bat because the install is massive, about 140gb. Before playing, I spent a couple hours freeing up 100+gb on my hard drive to make room. Upon launching, the FPS was low, so I spent, an hour or so scattered through the beginning area messing with graphics settings until it smoothed out. Once I got over those initial hiccups, the game ran perfectly the entire time, minus one crash last night.

    Survivor is like Fallen Order, but expanded in every way. The story is excellent, especially the second half of the game where things really pick up. The first half of the game is more exploration. Although, I if I were playing again, I would explore less early on and more later because you steadily unlock new means of traversal that open up new paths. There is a lot of backtracking upon acquiring new abilities like a metroidvania. Might as well minimize exploring until you know you won't hit a roadblock at every turn. On the other hand, exploration did yield a lot of health, force, and skill point bonuses, as well as some perks, perk slots, and stim cannisters for BD-1, Cal's companion droid. There were still a million cosmetic collectibles in chests, but at least the ratio of useful things to cosmetic items was better this time around, and I found a mullet early on, which I happily wore the entire game.

    All those boons from exploring paid off in the end because I found the ending of the game quite difficult. I died a few times on some of the later wave encounters, and the last two bosses were hard. The last one especially, I retried about 10 times (which was frustrating because I had allllmost beaten it on my third try!). And I won with half a health bar and no stims left. I may have been lulled into complacency by finding so many stim packs, which means I could take a lot of damage in battle, so I could spare stims and didn't learn to read enemies all that well until I was forced to. But, there are so many different enemies (dozens) and combat options (five stances plus force powers) that fights play out differently and you usually don't have to adhere to a strict cycle of parrying and attacking.

    I spent most of the game with the dual wield and blaster stances equipped. Dual wield is the second-strongest, and it is the fastest, but has the lowest defense. During the final boss, I was wondering if I'd shot myself in the foot by not leveling up any styles with defense. Maybe that's why I was getting hit so hard. Blaster stance puts a light saber in one hand and a blaster in the other. It's great for shooting enemies to knock down their shields and keep some distance. Since I was almost dead on the last boss, and probably would have died within the next 10 seconds, I made a tactical move to jump back and unload my blaster right at the end, and it's actually what killed the boss! Go blaster! That does seem sort of un-Jedi-ish though, killing the big bad guy with a blaster instead of a light saber.

    Each stance has some unique moves that use force, and there are of course the standard push/pull force powers. The best one though, hands down, was Confusion. If you upgrade it all the way, you will be unstoppable in multiple-enemy combat encounters with humanoid enemies. You can confuse up to two humanoids at a time, causing them to protect you. Then you can sit back and watch the enemies beat each other up, or you can use the distraction to clean up other enemies on the battlefield. Upgraded all the way, you can even confuse the toughest humanoid enemies. No one was immune! And, you can get some hacking abilities to take control of low-level droids; less useful, but still fun.

    So, I really enjoyed the combat and the exploration. There usually was something interesting and unique to see down every path, whether it was stumbling into a legendary monster's lair (like the one time I accidentally fell into the Spawn of Oggdo's lair and spent an hour trying unsuccessfully to kill it, trying over and over, figuring out all the ways I could lure droids to aid me), finding a climbing puzzle or Jedi puzzle to solve, and so on, although the rewards were fairly predictable. The one thing about the combat, and probably the only negative thing I can say about the whole game, is that, especially later on, it was easy to get "stun-locked" by overwhelming amounts of attacks, which was worse when fighting in closer quarters. Enemies can come at you fast and furious. It became really frustrating when like 5 of them are rushing at you swinging unstoppable attacks, firing blasters, and launching grenades. I think the blasters were some of the most annoying because you need to deflect them, which stops you from running away from melee enemies, and if you get hit you stop, so either way, when you're under blaster fire, and there are fast, hulking melee enemies there too, you're bound to be pummeled. And if you're in a corner or by a wall, it's even worse. Those wave deaths I mentioned earlier were often in such situations. Some of the harder (optional) bosses (of which there are many) were kind of like this too, moving and attacking so quickly that it was hard not to feel like you were being stun-locked.

    I mentioned that the story is excellent. Character development, context, all that, really well done. What I thought was especially cool were all the side stories with the characters you meet along the way. And not just the main characters, but all these side characters have really fleshed out backstories. Since the last game, Greez opened a cantina, and over the course of this game, as you meet new characters and progress in the story, people flock to the cantina. This is like your home base. It's neat to watch the cantina become livelier and livelier as time passes. You'll meet an ex-smuggler, a fortune-teller, an annoying frog creature that always gets into trouble because he's so stupid, which is the joke, an historian, and more. You'll unlock side activities and minigames like gardening, collecting fish for the aquarium, a little auto-battler tactics game, a series of bounties to collect, and more. Each character must have like 30 unique conversations. Like every time you go in there, you learn more about each one of them. It's a lot, but it felt like I was sprucing up the place, and it's funny to think about the cantina patrons never going anywhere else because they are always there. Do they all live there? Sleep at the bar or in their booths? Hopefully it is that weird.

    I think that's about it. I'd definitely describe the game as epic. The scale of some of the environments is jaw-dropping, like when you're climbing around the Lucrehulk or ziplining around the Shattered Moon. The escape segment against the excavator blew my mind. Easy recommendation, can't wait for the next one.

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    Happy Game (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 9th, 2024 at 13:38:02)

    This is the third and most recent of the Amanita Design games I played. It's also my favorite of the bunch. Amanita Design games are usually weird, quirky, and cute. This one is a horror game. It's like the folks who usually create these fun games about wacky creatures had a terrible day and dreamed up some horrific nightmares.

    You play as a kid who gets terrorized by some kind of creature, which looks like a horror version of the yellow smiley emoji, in his dreams. You have to survive three nightmares, trying to retrieve a toy that the smiley monster took in each. In the first, it's a soccer ball, then a stuffed bunny doll, then your dog. The soccer ball nightmare was strange enough, but the bunny nightmare (my favorite) was sick. There are bunny monsters, you have to decapitate bunnies with a guillotine, you have to get cannibal bunnies to eat other bunnies, you have to make a monster torture bunnies, etc. You can imagine the unease I felt when I saw that the third level was about the boy's pet dog. It does depict some animal cruelty (cartoon-ish, but still gross). At least it's the monsters hurting it and not your character.

    Gameplay is standard Amanita Design toybox stuff. It's a point-and-click, so you'll click around on objects seeing what happens when you drag them, stretch them, prod them, drop them on other objects, etc. It's not a hard game. It's still sometimes funny, always weird, occasionally cute, but it's completely morbid. I have a student who calls everything "demonic" (and I shouldn't listen to death metal because it's demonic, and I shouldn't watch horror movies because they're demonic...), and I keep thinking what if she saw this game, haha. Strange that I go to imagining this through the eyes of that person.

    Definitely recommend if you want to be unnerved for a couple hours.

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    N++ (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 5th, 2024 at 13:35:42)

    This has been on my wishlist for ages, the pinnacle of minimalistic platforming and speedrunning with precise physics-based controls. Finally bought it, played it, and...I get it, but I've no interest in playing after a couple hours. It is exactly what it says it is, but maybe I wanted this more many years ago. There are 325 levels, but each level is actually a bundle of 5 levels. That's 1,625 levels. I beat all the introductory level bundles (25) and beat one or two of each of the other bundle categories (each of which have 100 bundles [times 5 levels in each bundle]). My brain can barely comprehend this.

    I will say, the levels I played, I sure was sucked in. They are immediately difficult, requiring precise platforming and an understanding of how the game's movement and physics work. It's all about gaining and using momentum to launch yourself around the map. You've got to avoid all the deadly traps as you unlock the exit door and leave. If you're feeling especially bold, you can try to collect all the coins in each level. I got a handful of perfects, but man, according to, it takes over 400 hours to perfect all the levels. I can't imagine. And some people have done it!

    I searched on YouTube for "hardest N++ levels" and was in awe of the players I found. I was thinking, "Oh, if you just make a beeline for the exit, this isn't so hard. It's only hard if you're collecting coins." Not so in later levels! Just making it to the exit looked impossible. I'll never be that capable, so I will stop while I'm ahead!

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    Pilgrims (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 5th, 2024 at 13:23:36)

    Second of the three Amanita Design games I played, and my least favorite. It deviates from their formula the most. It's got the interactivity and the simplicity, but it's lacking in the puzzle department. It seems like they were playing around with the card game trend, and they incorporated items that you can use (as in a point-and-click) as cards that you pick to interact with characters and other game objects.

    So, in Pilgrims, you are a pilgrim (of course...). You have a 2d map to traverse with various points of interest. Some of these will have other characters who want things, and others will be more interactable sites, like a campfire you can cook on (drop a fish card on the fire and you get a cooked fish card, etc.). I thought that I would have to use my brain more to decipher how to meet the various characters' desires, but it's not meant to be a puzzle game. It's meant to be playful. You try using all the cards on all the things with all the pilgrims and see what happens.

    As you meet people's needs, they will join you too, so you might have three or four different characters with you at any given time. Ultimately, you'll fulfill each of their requests in order to move forward with your main pilgrim. You don't necessarily know what will fulfill their requests, and I guess it's puzzly in the sense that you need to figure it out, but just clicking on everything will get a hit. And it is cool that there are multiple ways to achieve various goals. For example, you need to get rid of a bear in a cave so you can enter and get something from there. The old lady can thwack it with a broom, you can give it flowers that make it go to sleep, you can poison it with a mushroom, and so on. The game wants you to replay it and find all the interactions (there are achievements for each of them), though the story doesn't change.

    Pilgrims was neat, but really short and simple, and not as funny or engaging or weird as most of Amanita Design's other games.

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    Odin Sphere (PS2)    by   richard.perez

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Sunday 18 April, 2010
    Odin Sphere is an amazing graphical game and with original game play elements that merge a farm simulation with a dining aspect. The writing of the game is woven among five main characters that interact together to piece the story together in a very grim and dramatic fashion.

    The premise revolves around a ring that is destined to be the catalyst to the end of the world. The main themes follow and are inspired by Wagner's epic "Ring of the Nibelung" a opera written in such massive scope it needs to be performed over a few days and features the "Ride of the Valkyrie's" musical score.

    This game however is an rpg that defies all modern gaming concepts with more focus on dramatic presentation than any other game i have played. Coming in a close second might be "Heavy Rain" but the difference is that Heavy Rain is reality based and Odin Sphere is heavy in Mythology.

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