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    The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess (Wii)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 6th, 2018 at 21:52:45)

    Finished! Sort of...I got frustrated and watched cut scenes for the last few dungeons. But finished! Okay so, overall, this was a game that felt like work to play. I occasionally lost myself in a couple of the great dungeons, but more of my time felt spent in tedium. A couple immediate factors leading to this feeling:

    1. Poor instruction and instructional timing for some new items. I remember when I unlocked the water bombs. I saw a lake, dove down, was excited to see destructible rocks, went to select the bombs and...they were grayed out. Why? Hmm. Maybe you don't actually place the bombs while in the water, but drop them from shore and the special thing about these bombs is that they explode in water. I could drop them from the shore, but they blew up long before reaching the rock. Hmm. I later saw on a walkthrough that you have to put the iron boots on first to use water bombs. That doesn't make sense to me. Why can't Link use bombs while swimming, or while standing on the bottom of a lake in normal shoes?

    Another one that happened tonight was using the dominion rod to make the statue use its sword in the Temple of Time. The game doesn't tell you you can do this, and soon after gaining control of the statue, it got seemingly stuck between a gate and a ledge. I couldn't move it. I did everything I could think of and, not wanting to save and exit (more on that soon), I consulted the walkthrough, which said you have to use the rod on the statue a second time to make it attack. Why would I think to use the rod on the statue a second time?! I already control the statue. The game doesn't tell you these hot tips that are necessary to your progression and saw me wasting a lot of time trying to figure out something that I should have been told.

    Yet another one tonight is when I learned (again from a walkthrough) that you can use the claw to pick up shells of a particular enemy type. I missed doing it in a room to get the Big Key for the Temple of Time and, long story short (explained below) quit in frustration. There is no reason for me to assume the claw would bring that object to me when it has never brought an object to me in 20 hours of play with the claw. The claw grapples to environmental objects like grates and moss for platforming purposes. I've tried to grapple other things that would seem to make sense and it never does it. I missed that key, escorted the statue all the way down 8 floors of a dungeon, opened the path to the dungeon boss, and came up against...a locked door that required a Big Key. I turned the game off, made food, and turned it back on after I ate.

    2. But what happens in Twilight Princess when you're in the Temple of Time dungeon and you save and quit after you've escorted the statue? Why, aside from the statue and the gates you happened to smash with it, the dungeon resets itself! All the enemies respawn, the traps reset, you have to re-do puzzles. At a game I was already lukewarm toward, I faced the prospect of having to trek back up 8 floors of a dungeon (and then back down) to get a key from a chest that I couldn't figure out how to open earlier. And that solution happens to be yet another item usage and/or bad (timing of) information that is inconsistent with its usage in the entire game up to that point.

    I'm done ranting. There is a lot I enjoyed about the game aside from what I talked about last time. Some of the later dungeons were excellent, with my favorite being the desert one. The puzzles got more challenging, and the more items you acquire, the more creative you can be with thinking about solutions. In the last dungeon, I used like 6 items. Shoutout to the spinner, a rotating disc you ride around like Marty McFly on a hoverboard. The spinner is one reason the desert dungeon stood out; it's a joy to use.

    One final thing I gathered from playing Twilight Princess is how influential Zelda games are in other adventure games. For example, a couple years ago I played Darksiders, which I really enjoyed (till it bugged out on me and I couldn't finish). But, wow, Darksiders is a Zelda clone!

    I'm glad I played this, though I could have stopped 10 hours earlier. Watching cut scenes didn't add a whole lot until the very end when All Is Revealed. The story is s-l-o-w and the dialogue is written at like a first grade level, not that exciting at all. Come for the neat use of the Wiimote and the charming world.

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    Burly Men at Sea (PS4)    by   jp       (Dec 2nd, 2018 at 19:43:32)

    I actually first played this last weekend - but I feel asleep while playing. I'm blaming tiredness not the game, but I guess my overall impression, now that I've finished it (all the different ways you can finish it) is that I'm somewhat disappointed.

    The game itself is quite simple, clean, and pretty. But...

    a. I had trouble with the cursor - it's movement never felt smooth and I often overshot what I was aiming for. I'm not sure if this was just a "bad port" issue? (I think that the native version of the game is touchscreen, which makes more sense)

    b. I was super excited the first time I finished the game - I got a book with a code! It went on a shelf in the game and I was invited to explore further stories/playthroughs. The number, if I recall, was a five-digit one and it game me the impression that, well, there were thousands of different stories (playthroughs). Furthermore, you're invited to visit a site, input your code and you can buy a book! (physical or digital, your choice) Wow! I was so impressed - and it's such a neat idea. Like a little storybook you can have. I imagined people buying the book to gift to little kids and such. But then, as I played through again, and again I realized that the number is a gimmick. There aren't really thousands of different games. In other words, there aren't that many playthroughs, in fact I completed them all in 90 minutes or so. This was such a disappointment! Now, it's not that the playthroughs were bad or anything like that - just that I thought the game was so much more than it ended up being. Sigh. This is like a No Man's Sky of branching narrative games.

    c. I think it was neat how each playthrough acknowledged previous ones and there was also an effort to shorten some parts that would have been really boring to play through so many times. It sort of skipped ahead (for example the moment when you take fire from the fireplace, the first time you play there's more dialogue and stuff - after that it just skips to the moment when one of the burly men has the torch). It doesn't skip EVERYTHING, and some scenes started to get really long in the tooth (burly men sinking in the ocean particularly), but I did appreciate the attempt to make things shorter than the original playthrough.

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    Absolute Drift: Zen Edition (PS4)    by   jp       (Nov 30th, 2018 at 22:47:53)

    Videos of this game looked really cool. That's the only reason I bought this game.

    Having played it for (only?) a few hours, I'm surprised by a few things:

    a. It's really hard. I just don't seem to get it - in terms of how to best control the car, control my turns and acceleration and what I think are the basic game controls. I bombed the tutorial. My score was in the bottom 5% of all scores! (I eventually got it up to the 45% percentile but that was many attempts later). It's just hard. For me. Which I'm interested in - personally - because I feel like I'm really in the dark as to what I should do to get better at the game.

    b. There's an "overworld" which is how you get into levels and also how you progress in the game. Zones are gated and in order to lower the drawbridge to the next zone you need to complete a bunch of objectives in a zone. THESE I CAN DO! And, I enjoy just driving around each zone and trying to get the objectives complete - the objectives are generally gameplay related (drift in circles around this thing, drift under this other thing) - but since there's no time pressure I can take my time, plan my route, try again and so on with a lot less pressure and, I must say, a bit of fun.

    c. So, the overworld/zones I enjoy playing in, but the levels themselves are a disaster for me. It's very sweet/sour sort of experience and I wonder how better players feel about the overworld. For me it's not easy, but I have enjoyed it - will better players find it a cakewalk and a boring grind?

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    Until Dawn (PS4)    by   jp       (Nov 30th, 2018 at 22:37:35)

    I finished this last weekend and I have to come clean on a few things:

    The game's first two chapters didn't really impress me all that much, but once the game gets going - it really moves along quickly and with fun twists.

    It's interesting to compare this game to other games with branching narratives - e.g. the Telltale Games - in this sense, the butterfly effect stuff is interesting in how it provides context as well as memory, you can read the entries to remember what has already happened and stuff like that. They also do the "previously on..." segments (much appreciated) like Telltale did, but the butterflies add a lot more.

    I was curious to see if the butterflies would influence me towards/against certain decisions or not. I don't think it did, and I think that's a good thing here.

    The one thing I was confused about where the detailed stats for each character - I looked at them a few times, and saw how certain choices made things go up/down (you get an "updated status" message) but I didn't get a sense that the stats mattered all that much.

    Once you're done you can go back and replay chapters - but you have to do them from the start. So, going back to try things differently, while possible, felt more onerous than I was willing to go for. On the other hand, replaying definitely goes faster (and you peek behind the curtain - e.g. quicktime events that don't really matter).

    I played the entire game worried that someone would die at any moment. I don't think that's possible (most deaths are probably in the last three chapters or something like that), but the illusion that this was possible definitely enhanced the experience for me. A lot.

    I made it with only two deaths. I mean three. I thought this was pretty good because one was "on purpose" - I did something I knew was a bad idea...

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    The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess (Wii)    by   dkirschner       (Nov 30th, 2018 at 09:40:03)

    So I bought a Wii U! Now I can play the backlog of Wii and Wii U games I've accumulated over the years. Twilight Princess is first. I did my Zelda research and this one is placed above Skyward Sword (the next in the series) on almost every list. Then Breath of the Wild is apparently one of the best games ever made, and so I figured I would do Twilight Princess (it's appropriate to celebrate my Wii U acquisition with a Wii launch title) as representative of that generation of Zelda games, and then play Breath of the Wild later on. Also, dare I admit that besides the original Legend of Zelda on Nintendo, I've never played a Zelda game except for a few hours of Wind Waker, which I didn't like.

    Since Twilight Princess is essentially my first Zelda game in 25 years, it took me some time to get used to the flow of the game, and many things that regular Zelda players probably take for granted, I had to learn to make sense of. For example, the game alternates between sort of like "overworld" and dungeon parts, and there seem to be series staples such as the compass, the heart fragments, that iconic chime sound when you discover a secret, and so on. Also somewhere in every overworld/dungeon sequence, Link gets a new toy, whether it's bombs he can use under water, heavy boots, or a grappling hook. You'll use that new item heavily in the associated dungeon, the design of which revolves around the use of the new item, and then use it some later and largely for secrets or revisiting old areas to find new paths.

    So yes, it took me some time to get used to the flow of the game. Another thing that has taken considerable effort is the controls. Maybe it's because I haven't played a Wii in a long time, and maybe it's because there are so many different actions you can perform and so many different buttons, but I've got busy hands and arms playing Twilight Princess. It is extremely cool to use your sword by making a slashing motion with the Wii controller, to use your shield bash by thrusting the nunchuck forward, and to do a special attack by waving the nunchunk wildly about. You can do all this while holding Z to lock on to enemies, or you can hold Z and press B to use whatever other equipped weapon you have (bow, grappling hook, slingshot, bow with bombs, etc.). It only gets old when the Z targeting doesn't work quite right or when the camera decides to be wonky, which happens a lot. It's also sometimes difficult to play with a cat on your lap who is easily startled by sudden movements. But, the more I play, the more I reinforce that 1 is map, 2 is equipment menu, - is the inventory wheel, + is...I don't remember what + is. That A sometimes cancels and sometimes selects, and sometimes attacks, that B sometimes cancels and sometimes attacks. But when all else fails, just flail wildly.

    The game's tone is kid-friendly dark. But just when I'm getting turned off by the cutesy sweetness of the game, I'll face a new disgusting looking boss or (what I'm currently doing) witnessing the current main bad guy who looks like a Lovecraftian horror nearly kill Midna, and now I, turned into a wolf, am trying to sneak into Hyrule Castle to get Zelda to help me and Midna. But the whole time, Midna is on my back, half sliding off, gasping for breath like she's dying. Kid-friendly dark, but damn, there is great character art and the weight of Midna dying on your back is heavy.

    I like these faster, more tense moments of the game better than exploring the dungeons. The dungeons are full of respawning enemies, which can largely be ignored, and all manner of little platforming and other puzzles. I generally dislike the platforming, thanks to the aforementioned wonky camera and lack of precision movement. Last play session, I kept dying in an area because Link kept slipping off a rock, or while attacking a bird, Link would thrust forward and fall off, or Link's grappling hook would attach to vines but the game wouldn't transition from grapple to climbing and so I'd have to let go and start over. The puzzles rarely make you feel all that clever for having solved, but I hope that with more items in my inventory, I can be more creative in approaching puzzles. However, this game is from 2006, so I sort of doubt it. I will say that the grappling hook has been my favorite new tool because you can use it on different kinds of objects and it improves your mobility. One cool moment from my last play session was seeing grappling hook sites high above the center of the water temple, grappling up there and finding a treasure chest on a chandelier, surveying the area and seeing a grappling hook site where a lever should have been, and then getting myself over there, activating the switch, and moving the staircase to its proper position to allow the water to flow to the center of the temple, raising the water level, and allowing me access to the door to the dungeon's boss. That was the most satisfying part of the water temple. But, can we please do away with water levels? Unless you have made Abzu or Subnautica, just don't do it.

    More later! Based on time to beat, I should be a little over halfway through, but have uncovered most of the map. So hopefully there are some story twists and the game picks up pace.

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    Fallout New Vegas (PC)    by   dkirschner

    Looking forward to an improvement over Fallout 3! --------- Yes, infinitely better! I am master of New Vegas!
    most recent entry:   Monday 15 June, 2015
    Complete! I am the proud leader of an independent Vegas. I screwed over most of the factions to get here, including my favorite, nuking both the NCR and the Legion. That decision made the second battle for Hoover Dam a shooting gallery since the NCR and Legion were fighting one another and were also shooting at me. The end of the game is fantastic. I have no idea how many different endings there are or how many little character vignette endings there are. There were like 20 of them in my game. I really liked hearing about the effects my actions had on characters I'd helped and towns I'd passed through in the beginning of the game.

    So, I did the final two DLC before completing the game. Old World Blues was my favorite of all of them mostly because it was very funny. You get abducted by 5 wacky scientists who are computers. One can't speak. One is obsessed with your biology in a sexual way. One yells all the time and reminded me of Will Ferrell's SNL skit about voice modulation disorder. One can't let go of being wronged by a girl he liked in high school. The other is flamboyant. They are at odds with a mad scientist type, who you find out later just takes a lot of drugs. They've removed your brain, spine, and heart, and you have to battle the mad scientist's army of robo-scorpions to confront him and retrieve your brain so you can leave. Very, very enjoyable DLC with a neat new gun that can power down force fields and mess up robots.

    The last DLC, Lonesome Road, had the best ending of them all, and the eyebot is cute. I didn't care much for the other courier. I found him irritating and vague. He is mad at you for bringing a package that ended up blowing up some town or something at The Divide, and just has a lot of existential angst. He doesn't want revenge, but he's just...upset about things. It's worth playing for the choice of endings alone. Overall, I'd recommend all the DLC except Honest Hearts.

    So yeah. Fallout: New Vegas. Excellent game. Skip Fallout 3 and just play this. I have no idea how Fallout 3 has a 91 on Metacritic, while New Vegas has an 84. New Vegas is miles ahead of Fallout 3. Oh, and if you do most of the side quests and unlock doors and computers and use speech skills and whatnot, you will hit the level cap of 50 without a problem. I hit it near the beginning of the 3rd DLC. I admit I started rushing a bit after that because, well, no experience for doing anything. I'd run past enemies to get to the next door, quit searching rooms, stuff like that. I would still get killed by Deathclaws though. Stupid strong Deathclaws!

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