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    Rayman Legends (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 6th, 2022 at 10:13:32)

    I’m almost finished with this one, which may actually be two games in one (?). As you complete levels and rescue Teensies, you unlock remastered levels from Rayman Origins, like tons of them. So, at this point I’ve completed every Rayman Legends level and every Rayman Origins level except the final one (and except something that requires you to 100% the game, collecting 700 Teensies [I have about 500]).

    I’ve never played a Rayman game before and am pleasantly surprised. It’s really fun, a charming, challenging, platformer. Basically, you run, jump, and smash your way through a variety of creative and visually appealing levels, rescuing Teensies (cute little smurf-like blue creatures) and stopping the bad guys. Levels are grouped into larger themes, each with a boss at the end, such as underwater levels (a giant sea serpent), castle/hell levels (a dragon), a Dia de los Muertos level (a musical running-type event), etc. All the Legends levels had a musical level at the very end, which may have been my favorite things in the game. They also have special challenging versions of the musical levels that are in “8-bit” (aka, the resolution sucks, you play the level mirrored, and various other challenges). Oh yeah, I forgot earlier, one other level I never beat was the “8-bit” level that uses all of the 8-bit level tricks in one level: poor resolution, mirror, four screens, etc. It switches in between them, so confusing. Seriously, look at this craziness:

    I’ll knock out that last Origins level at some point over the break and put a bow on this game. Good times.

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    Hand of Fate 2 (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 6th, 2022 at 09:58:15)

    This is a sequel that obliterates the previous game. There is no reason to play Hand of Fate! This improves upon it in every way. Highly, highly recommended if you like tabletop games, card games, dungeon crawlers, RPGs. I’ve still never played anything quite like it.

    The narrative is more cohesive this time: the Dealer slowly leaks clues to who you are, who he is, why you’re with him, and how you’re going to help him wreak righteous vengeance upon his enemy. This is accomplished through the campaign map, as you move from scenario to scenario, eventually assassinating the Emperor and escaping the pursuing imperial forces, before the final reveal, confrontation, and conclusion.

    There are countless other stories woven throughout, which really bring a sense of place to the game. I felt like I was in a real fantasy world. You visit cities, mountains, forests, and fields, all represented on the map, as the Dealer moves your game piece here and there. Persistent characters (including your four companions) appear multiple times, like the High Priestess in the north, whom you first encounter in a scenario where you have to acquire blessings to enter her Ritual House at the summit of a mountain to gain favor with the Northerners. Acquiring 6 or more blessings gets you the gold token for the scenario (successfully completing all objectives), and acquiring less than that, and still beating the boss on top, gets you the silver token (completing the main objectives).

    Each of your companions also has a story to discover, which all cleverly culminate in the conclusion, and each can live or die. Companion stories are told through card quests, which is how so many other fun stories are told in the game. Some cards have tokens on them. When you land on the card in a scenario map, you have a chance to satisfy its requirements and obtain the token, which moves the quest along, and you’ll get the next card in the quest. For example, Malaclypse, a mage and your first companion, as well as the only companion whose quest I completed, first asks you to travel with him to meet a friend of his from whom he needs a favor. If you flip the card in a scenario, you meet the friend, who asks for 10 gold as payment to consider the favor. If you have 10 gold, you can try the event; if not, try again later. So, pay up, and the friend requires a test of skill from you. In this case, the event is a dice gambit for each of three dialogue options you choose. I tried this event a few times; I think one of the options is the “correct one,” so first you have to choose the right one, then pass the dice gambit, before winning the card’s token and getting the next part of the story. There are probably a couple dozen quests like this, along with about 200 other Encounter cards.

    Dice gambits mean throwing dice to hit a target number. Other gambits are chance card gambits (basically playing cups, same as the first Hand of Fate, and my least favorite), wheel gambits (spin a wheel of cards and try to stop on the one you want [if it’s going slowly enough for you to even see what the cards are!]), and precision gambits (my favorite, where you stop a pendulum at precise points). These can all be modified by companions (each companion gives you an edge in one type of gambit in exchange for being unavailable for the next three combats) and items. There was a handy ring, for example, that adds 2 to all dice rolls, and a helmet that lets you see the cards in the wheel gambit and duplicate one before spinning. These items, and the companion abilities, are extremely useful, because these gambits are not easy. You’ll lose a lot, which on the one hand is frustrating, but on the other heightens the tension so, so much. This is a game about games of chance (“games within games within games,” as the Dealer likes to say), so it’s purposeful, you can get better at three of the gambits (dice rolls are still just dice rolls, purely luck), and you can choose cards and use companions to maximize your chances of winning, and consequently minimize your chances of failure, which can result in some brutal outcomes if you’re really unlucky.

    Anyway, I’ve skirted around a clear explanation of how the game works. Before each scenario, you choose cards from your deck. Each scenario awards specific cards upon completion, so your deck starts small and grows. There are companion cards (usually you can bring one companion along), encounter cards, equipment cards, and supplies. Encounter cards are those that determine the events that take place in the scenario as you traverse the map and attempt to meet the scenario’s objectives. Encounter cards can result in combat, gold rewards, food rewards, equipment gain, blessings, curses, loss of max HP, all manner of things both good and bad, and often require you to choose dialogue options and attempt gambits that influence the outcome. These are the cards you strategically choose in order to get the stuff (gold, food, equipment) you need to survive the scenario. Equipment cards (weapons, helmets, rings, etc.) determine what equipment will be available to you in the scenario when you can get equipment from encounter cards. Choose equipment that is best for fighting the enemies you may encounter, or that provides useful bonuses (e.g., if you know there are a lot of dice gambits in the scenario, and lots of combat against thieves, then choose equipment and encounters that will help, like that ring I mentioned, and light weapons, which are best against thieves; if you know that the scenario map is huge, then you’re going to need a lot of food, so choose equipment that generates food, and encounters that offer food as reward). Supplies cards are the cards you begin the scenario with. You start only with some shitty options of rusty weapons, but eventually, you can start with better weapons and armor, some useful rings, extra food or gold, and even a bonus to your max HP. Again, depending on what you know is coming in the scenario, you can choose wisely.

    Hand of Fate 2 has a wonderful set of filters to choose cards (don’t remember if the first game did this), which make it easy to find those that are the best for a scenario requiring high max HP or curse resistance or combats against Northerners or whatever. Each scenario tells you three pieces of information (e.g., Do not expect to be welcomed by Northerners while treading on their lands; Gain blessings to increase your chance of success; etc.), so you generally know what you need to prepare for. Of course, the game constantly throws curveballs at you, so you should always be prepared for anything. When your cards are ready, you begin the scenario.

    Your character is represented by a game piece on the scenario map on the table. The map is literally made of cards (encounter cards you chose and other scenario-specific cards). You move one space at a time, flipping over the cards you land on and doing whatever the event/encounter happens to be. You progress through the scenario like this; typically, each scenario has a few levels, so you’ll reach some specific card (e.g., catacomb stairs, a river crossing, a combat encounter) and be whisked to another map of cards (e.g., the next level of the catacombs, the other side of the river, etc.), until you get to the end of the scenario.

    And that’s it! The only other thing to mention is sort of like the white elephant in the Hand of Fate room: the combat. The combat sucked in the first game. It’s much better in the sequel, but is still not great. Now, you have companions who join you in combat (and you can trigger their special abilities), you have more special abilities through the use of artifacts, the controls are smoother, enemies can no longer hit you while you are in mid-attack animation, the equipment and enemy variety change things up a bit more, but it’s still pretty basic hack-n-slash. You can dodge roll your way to victory when in a hairy situation, letting your companion do most of the work. You can sit back and wait for attacks to counter. Enemies can be quite aggressive though, especially some of the thieves and boss types, and combats frequently have three (and later, more) types of enemies at once. You can be on the map with 15 or 20 other units, which is a lot to keep track of. You do have to learn to parry/counter and dodge, or else you will die. I died in combat a handful of times; it’s not always easy, and can also be frustrating, in part because you have to be quick with your button presses. I also ended a handful of combats with dangerously low HP, like one-more-hit-and-I-lose low, including the final boss, which took me maybe 5 tries. Gambits and combat both had me out of my seat yelling from time to time…I did have a combat bug for the entire game. One enemy type, the Corrupted (think zombies), was completely broken. The basic Corrupted enemies, upon combat start, walked to the edge of the map and skirted its circumference. This happened every time. They rarely attacked. They just, like the brainless zombies they are, looked like they were trying to leave the combat arena. Needless to say, I knew every combat and scenario featuring Corrupted was going to be pretty easy. I looked this up afterward, and it’s a known bug, but somehow has never been patched. I guess it’s cool if 15% of the enemies in the entire game don’t work right?

    And that’s really it! Tempted to buy DLC and play a few more scenarios with new companions, as well as complete card quests, get gold tokens on every scenario (which requires completing every companion quest for the final scenario!), pursue unlocks and achievements, and so on, but of course, the backlog calls, and honestly, given how chance-based this game is, I can see it taking foreverrrrr to achievement hunt.

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    Watch Dogs 2 (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Nov 30th, 2022 at 19:51:41)

    This is GTA with hacking. Overall, I enjoyed it, found it a breath of fresh air in open world games. Although the GTA formula is nothing new, the hacking kept me engaged; actually, I became more engaged over time as I unlocked new abilities and wrapped my head around the hacking puzzles. This was a freebie on Epic. I never would have bought it, but am glad that I played it (though it subjectively felt like forever, took me all semester, yet told me in the end I clocked only 29 hours).

    By far my favorite aspect of the game was the setting. San Francisco is beautifully depicted. The game starts you—a Black character named Marcus—by the ocean, a pride flag waving in the breeze. Immediately, representation matters. There is a city councilwoman who is trans. The Watch Dogs version of The Church of Scientology attempts to blackmail her by releasing her gender reassignment surgery photos. There is also a hacker in a rival organization named Lenni, who is a masculine-presenting woman. I don’t recall references to her sexuality, but apparently it used to list that she “appears to be a lesbian” on a fan wiki I’m looking at ( There are strings of comments with people asking that “appears to be a lesbian” be removed since the author is assuming sexuality from gender presentation, and of course counter comments that are as ignorant as one could imagine. The city is full of what makes San Francisco cool, and the developers take a firm stance on the side of diversity and inclusion. Case in point: the corrupt politician in the game is obviously a reference to Donald Trump. His name instead is Truss. He wants to “Make the Bay Area Stronger!” And, humorously, he tries to rig the election, the very hill Trump chose to die on four years after the game’s release.

    One of the game’s (optional) activities is to find local landmarks through an app (like TripAdvisor) and take selfies in front of them. Posting selfies on Watch Dog’s social media app nets followers, which gets you research points to spend on ability upgrades and cosmetic items. I didn’t care about the cosmetic items, had more research points than I knew what to do with by the end of the game, but boy did I love exploring San Francisco’s unique locations. I spent a good chunk of my playtime finding them, and I just remember that I missed one! Argh! It was some people playing as zombies in a graveyard at night; I never returned after dark. You can photograph obvious ones like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and that really steep road, various murals, sculptures, and other artwork, well-known street performers and restaurants, and so on. I think that if the game’s location was not so cool, I would not have kept playing, because the gameplay took time to grow on me and I wasn’t enamored with the main characters (Marcus was pretty cool, but they descended in coolness from there [note: my opinion would be different if I was a 15-year-old boy]).

    I said that the gameplay took time to grow on me. That’s partly because it doesn’t differentiate itself much from GTA in the beginning. You can 3d print a gun, hijack a car, and cause general mayhem within minutes. Your first hacking tools are basic: open doors, hack cameras, hack people’s phones. The latter activity is humorous for a while, until you realize how little sense it makes. By hacking people’s phones—and you can do this to any NPC—you see their mood, job, income, and a random fact. Like, “David Kirschner 😊. Sociology Professor. Salary: $60,000. Eats old food instead of throwing it away.” You can also transfer money from their bank account, listen in on their calls, and read their texts. Interesting for a while, then repetitive. The professions and salaries make me laugh sometimes. I think I did see a sociology professor, but the salary was like $150,000. Wishful thinking. Delivery drivers will make $200,000, while a tech CEO will make $30,000. It seems random. The random facts are all “dirty little secrets” like “likes to wear women’s underwear” or “picks her nose when no one is looking.”

    Hacking presents more opportunities for annoying people instead of just killing them GTA style, and over time the puzzles open up. Some of the “annoy people” type missions are pretty funny though. For example, there is a side mission where you hack an ATM and mess with customers: eat their card, donate their money to charity, etc. The people get so mad. Main missions are more serious, and as I came to enjoy the gadgets I had access to (a remote-controlled car and a drone) and learned how to solve the hacking and platforming puzzles, they became easier. Puzzles generally involve (a) using gadgets to (b) get to a high or otherwise unreachable place to (c) bypass security locks. As evidence of the moment of my mastery here, I completed a series of “tagging” missions, which culminated in figuring out how to scale the highest place in the game, the Golden Gate Bridge. Getting to high places often involves finding the machinery to get you there: forklifts, cranes, and the like, which you can hack to transport you from rooftop to rooftop, for example.

    The hacking puzzles themselves are neat. They are a bit difficult to explain. Imagine looking at a wall, and on the wall you see a network of cables with various switches. There is a “power source,” and you route the power through the cables, rotating the switches in the correct way to unlock more switches, and eventually channel the power to open a door or whatever is the object of the puzzle. That’s one of the basic puzzles, like some cables in a wall. Now, imagine later puzzles: cables crisscrossing up the side of an entire building; cables going up walls and across ceilings through several rooms in a server farm; multiple of these rooms, connected by satellites, spanning the globe!

    You can do other things with your hacking skills too, and you’ll need to, because despite the option to attempt playing this game like GTA, that path will lead to frustration and (character) death. While driving, you can disrupt the power grid, change red lights, make other cars swerve, and blow up manhole covers. All this is mildly effective at deterring the police, and I mainly used these tricks to cause chaos for fun. Although, you’ll rarely be driving long distances unless you want to. There is a generous fast-travel system that’ll get you within a few blocks of most anywhere on the map.

    As far as going on the offensive on foot, you’ll make use of disrupting people’s phones so they can’t call for back-up, you’ll turn their phones into remote bombs, zap them with electric shocks, and my favorite, put a hit on people and call in the local gangs to take them out. This latter tactic is hilarious, AND for some inexplicable reason, gang members can get through any locked door, so it’s instrumental for bypassing security! You just follow them in, then watch them murder your enemies. As long as you don’t shoot at anyone, they’ll leave you alone, and you can take a leisurely stroll through the high-security building, to the third floor, into the CEO’s office, hack his computer, or whatever you are doing, and no one is the wiser. Need to leave the area afterward? Just call in another hit and leave amid the chaos. No problem.

    This latter phenomenon is an example of Watch Dogs 2 being GTA-lite. It’s GTA with hacking, yes, but it’s also a GTA that doesn’t do anything else as well as GTA. The AI has quirks. Enemies quit searching the area for you, for example, even if you are obviously still nearby; they aren’t thorough. The gang members getting an open invitation to enter buildings is weird. Enemies will go into high alert after you shoot someone with your stun gun, hidden behind cover, while they won’t bat an eye when you turn an enemy’s phone into a remote explosive or otherwise cause environmental damage. In my last play session, I began in the middle of a highway (I guess I stopped in the road before turning off the game last time). A motorcycle approached. A car stopped behind it. I was causing a traffic jam in one lane. The woman on the motorcycle got off and hurled insults at me. Cars swerved around us. Another car got caught in the jam. The woman decided to run down the interstate herself. Another person got out of a jammed car, yelled at me, and ran down the interstate the other way, causing another pileup before eventually getting struck and dying. I could see her corpse in the distance in the slow lane. This was all really funny, and I let the havoc unfold for about 10 minutes. My girlfriend was sitting next to me, and we both became invested in the drama.

    I suppose that’s a draw of these kinds of games. They aren’t supposed to be hyper-realistic. The systems aren’t supposed to be perfect. The imperfections create a lot of the humor, the playfulness, and the stories that emerge from gameplay. I think that’s why I kept playing, because even though the characters were kind of annoying, the clear Anonymous vibes from hacker group DedSec were cheesy, and it was way too “cool” for a non-teen like me, it was always fun. What more can you ask for?

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    Crash Boom Bang! (DS)    by   jp       (Nov 30th, 2022 at 14:50:15)

    I'm going to guess that this game is better when played with live humans - that being said, there is a "campaign/story" mode, and - wow, what a mess. There's so much that's unclear, hard to control, or even understand.

    The game is basically Mario Party, on the DS, but with Crash Bandicoot (and friends). And, it mostly doesn't make much sense. Maybe I missed a tutorial? Or, to be fair, I was playing without having looked at or read the manual. There's lots of UI stuff (menus, not in-game) that felt sort of hit-miss as I fumbled around, and the games themselves. Well, lets say that the AI is either unfairly too good, or that I'm just terrible at it. The latter might be fair, but the difference in scores suggests that there might be something else going on.

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    Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise (DS)    by   jp       (Nov 30th, 2022 at 14:44:02)

    Here's another game I didn't spend too much time on, but enough to get a general vibe. It's definitely a "sim" game - you need to manage a bunch of stuff and so on, but it is structured in a way that seems rather straightforward - as in, the piñatas that appear have certain needs and will appear in a certain order.

    I recall that there was a TV show, but I was surprised that the game has lots of footage from what might be that TV show? Or maybe that was all in the original 360 games? Anyways, I was surprised by how much footage (it doesn't look great, tbh) there is in the game - and this is only for the tutorial missions and a little bit more. As I write this I guess I'm even more surprised that the IP seems to have disappeared entirely?

    As for the gameplay? Well, it's not the sort of thing that gets me excited, and I was think it's interesting how the savagery that's a part of the game (kill piñatas to feed the ones you have) remains front and center in the game. There's also some of that in how you can knock critters around with the spade and stuff.

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    GameLog hopes to be a site where gamers such as yourself keep track of the games that they are currently playing. A GameLog is basically a record of a game you started playing. If it's open, you still consider yourself to be playing the game. If it's closed, you finished playing the game. (it doesn't matter if you got bored, frustrated,etc.) You can also attach short comments to each of your games or even maintain a diary (with more detailed entries) for that game. Call it a weblog of game playing activity if you will.

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    Grand Theft Auto - San Andreas (PS2)    by   ISMITH4

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Monday 19 April, 2010
    Despite a long laundry list of obscenities and unspeakable violence, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas is a game with redeemable qualities. San Andreas places a particular emphasis on “family” and being there for them. CJ, Sweet, and Kindle, like any group of siblings, fight all the time, but they truly care for one another and keep each other’s best interest in mind, even when the sibling in question do not quite see it that way. A specific instance is during the mission when CJ looks after Kindle when she goes out with Cesar. Sweet and CJ look after Kindle, despite their major fight, and protect her.
    Grand Theft Auto San Andreas values not only the immediate nuclear family, but also those close around you. The theme that ties all the Pine Grove Gang missions together is that of Family. Staying close and defending the people who mean something to you, whether that means your brother and sister or a childhood friend. Therefore, despite the mountains of gratuitous sexual references and violent behavior, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas communicates the message of a deep bond that lie between you and the people around you.

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