Pointless Nonsense

Posted in video games by Bill on July 25, 2017

INSIDE is from the same studio that made LIMO, a very clever minimalist indie platformer which was apparently a big success. This one is bigger and with more bells and whistles (like color and 3D, the previous game looked like you were seeing the shadow of a three dimensional game, but this one is really 3D). It’s the same basic concept though, the four arrows and a button to grab things and that’s it. Your objective is just to move through the world, but the obstacles become increasingly complicated.

This one has a bit of a story to it. Initially, you’re running through the woods at night. There are people in the background, some in cars, some have flashlights. If they spot you with their lights, they’ll try to shoot you or sick dogs on you. Who are they and why do they want to kill you? Towards the end, it gets weird. And since there’s no text or voiceover, what in the hell happened is somewhat ambiguous.

But the puzzles are very good. For a sidescroller with exactly five buttons (up, down, left, right, and grab), the puzzles can get pretty elaborate. Very fun game and well worth playing if you like puzzles, and don’t mind grisly deaths when you mess up.

Posted in video games by Bill on July 13, 2017

Superhot came in a Humble Bundle and it’s awesome. I’d seen a demo video of this a long time ago and I thought it looked clever, but it’s really a lot of fun. It’s a first person shooter where time only movies when you move. That gives you time to plan out your actions precisely, and you end up with action movie type superpowers. Two guys are running at you with guns and you’re unarmed? Punch the first one in the face, his gun goes flying so you grab it out of the air, dodge a bullet from the second guy and headshot him. And this is neither an incredibly complicated set of controls nor one of those things where it’s like “tap A to do this scripted thing that looks badass but all you did was tap A.” You’re really in control and the slow motion mechanic gives you time to plan out the sequence of moves to get you out of an impossible action movie situation.

The graphics are minimalist, but it works well for the game. Black and white except the enemies and bullet trails are red. There’s a plot built into it, but… meh. Who cares though, it’s all about navigating these scenarios and killing all the red guys.

It’s short, a few hours for the campaign type thing, though there are other modes to play in. But really quite fun. It’s the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

Posted in video games by Bill on July 11, 2017

The new Rocket League competitive season kicked off, so I lost basically a week to that (and I’ve somehow recently gotten a lot better at the game), but now that I hit what I’m pretty sure is my peak ranking, back to bundle/summer sale games I’ve stockpiled. First up is Plague Inc: Evolved which from what I’d seen looked like a fancy version of Pandemic II, the flash game where you spread a virus all over the world except to Madagascar. And that’s basically what it is. Fun enough, but not exactly a deep or rich gaming experience, wouldn’t pay more than a few bucks for it non-bundled. Since it’s currently listed at $15.99 on Steam, I’d avoid the hell out of that until it’s on sale.

Posted in video games by Bill on July 7, 2017

Offworld Trading Company is an economic game centered around resource extraction and processing on Mars. You control a corporation on the red planet and on an RTS-like map, you deploy mines, solar panels, and other stuff, then buy and sell the things you make on a market. Prices rise and fall based on supply and demand among all corporations on the map, so if your opponent has tons of iron and sells it all to the market, you can then buy it for cheap. Or more profitably, if you have tons of iron, you can sabotage your opponents’ iron mines to drive up the price and sell your stockpile for a bunch. You win the game by buying out the other corporations.

There’s an interesting campaign mode in which you all start with crippled corps, then play several games without the stock buyout mechanism, instead trying to build up colonies to get metagame income, and that income allows you to purchase upgrades to un-cripple yourself, until the last game with all the upgrades you’ve bought is a regular game where you try to buy your opponents out.

It’s kinda fun for a while, and for like $7 on sale I was happy to get 22 hours out of it, doing the tutorial, a few standalone games, and then a campaign. I’m not interested enough to try to get good at it though.

Posted in video games by Bill on July 3, 2017

The Room Two is not quite as good as the first one, but that’s very nitpicky. It’s still really fun (and cheap) and has a cool visual design.

My complaint is that in the interest of making the puzzles more challenging, they made the rooms more elaborate, but most of the additional complexity makes it about “did you notice you could click on that thing over there?” more than “can you figure out which of the things this new piece will help you open?”

But aside from that, I liked it a lot. Especially for $1.50. Looking around, it seems like there are probably plans to port the third one to PC, so I’m going to wait on that, rather than try it on a tiny screen, or risk discovering that my tablet lacks the horsepower to play it.

Posted in video games by Bill on June 29, 2017

The Room¬†(no relation to the movie) is apparently a mobile game that has been ported to PC and it’s awesome.

It’s a puzzle game. Aside from flavor text and some short transitional cutscenes, all you do is open boxes. But they’re really elaborate science-fantasy boxes with cranks and gears and hidden ink and all that stuff. Turn this key to open that door, which reveals the numbers you put on those dials, which opens a drawer with a knob in it, place the knob into a slot and crank it and the gears do something to reveal something else. It’s all really cool looking with a vaguely Lovecraftian theme.

It’s short (about 3 hours, maybe less if you leave hints turned on, though steam has me at 5 due to extensive pausing at work), but extremely cheap (about $1.25 on sale), and for that price it’s a great deal. It has a sequel that I purchased (also on sale for a buck and a quarter) halfway through playing the first. There’s also a third on ios/android, but not ported to PC yet, and pricier. I dunno if it’ll play well on a phone, and I’m not sure my tablet has the specs to play it, but I may have to investigate that after finishing the second.

Posted in video games by Bill on June 28, 2017

Kentucky Route Zero had come up on searches for games with especially good story, and metacritic loves it. I, however, do not. It’s a minimalistic point-and-click adventure game kinda Twin Peaks-ish magical realism thing. I liked the visual style, but that’s about it. There’s some things I’ve never seen in a game before, like choosing dialogue options for both sides of a conversation, making up both parties’ backstories as you go (backstories that I believe to be totally irrelevant to the game). Or deciding what to think about while you breathe. Those are unique, but not things I’d consider to be actually good.

I’m being more liberal with refunds, and thus quicker to pull the trigger on cheap games. Also between this sale and bundles my Steam library has finally grown out of control. I used to have them all displayed, then I just hid all the ones that I didn’t like enough to finish, but I hit a point where they wouldn’t all fit on one screen even with that, so I had to start making folders (which Steam doesn’t exactly do, but “categories”) are close enough.

Posted in video games by Bill on June 28, 2017

I heard raves about Hidden Folks, as a video game take of Where’s Waldo? ¬†which I guess I should have been suspicious about because I didn’t think that sounded very fun. Those books were amusing in 4th grade or whatever, but there’s a reason I don’t still go out and buy them. It was on sale and cheap though, so I gave it a try, and it was kinda what I expected. The drawings are impressive, but the sounds are annoying and the animations don’t really bring a lot to the table. I got bored in about 5 minutes.

Posted in video games by Bill on June 27, 2017

Orwell had been on my steam wishlist for a while, since it showed up as recommended for me and hit a lot of tags I like (Sci Fi, choices matter, story-rich) and sounded interesting. I’m guessing it was due to Her Story, which has a somewhat similar format of revealing a story by hunting through a computer for clues. But instead of Her Story‘s video database, in this one you take the role of an contractor employed by a government surveillance group to search the web, snoop through people’s emails and chats and phones and computers, and provide relevant data to the government. I guess in the interest of not being too intrusive, they want only the contractor to see all the personal info, and you choose what snippets to send to the government. This turns out to give you a lot of power, since by selecting the right things out of context, you can give an entirely wrong impression.

The story unfolds about terrorist bombings designed to draw attention to the surveillance state, and a protest group that seems to be linked to the bombings. It’s an ok story, but given that you’re reading through webpages and listening to phone conversations (not really listening, watching text that the game tells you is a phone conversation), you start to feel involved, and I think that elevates an ok story to something a little better.

I do kinda wish they had voice actors for the phone conversations, some of the text scrolled too slowly (realistic for a chat session, but since the game could just spit it all out for me, it was annoying that I read so much faster than they type), and the interface for uploading data to people’s profiles wasn’t the best, but I did enjoy the experience. And it was weird to go from feeling like “yeah fuck big brother!” to “these anti-government activists are kinda douches” and back several times. And even though it very intentionally tries to be relevant to the real world and draw parallels to real events (even though it takes place in a fictional city in a fictional country), I don’t think it really has anything to say about the privacy vs. security debate. If anything, it seems to think that if you dig deep enough you’ll find shitty things out about most everyone.

Posted in video games by Bill on June 23, 2017

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is Steam Summer Sale game #2, and the first refund. I may have just seen it in a discovery queue or something when I was looking to fill out my wishlist, because it doesn’t sound familiar at all.

It’s an open world fantasy action/RPG from 2013. A dragon attacks your village and you alone try to stand up to it. It kicks your ass, but instead of killing you, steals your heart and does some magic stuff to… curse you? Or bless you maybe? Anyway you’re driven to pick up a sword (or dagger or staff) and go adventuring or whatever.

It does some nice things, the character creation options are pretty extensive, and moving around is pretty fluid, but the interface was clearly designed for a console, and the map is garbage. It does this thing where it Matrixes over to show you something, freezing, rotating, and panning to show you something of note. Which would be great if the rotating and panning wasn’t slightly disorienting. Somewhere nearby, there was a peddler under attack who I needed to rescue. But I couldn’t tell what direction he was in, and neither he nor the enemies appeared on my map, so… fuck that.