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- Friday, June 18, 2021:
Review Day: Minecraft (Switch)
Minecraft is the ultimate "dig a hole on the beach" simulator and a perfect game for me to play with Maia now that we've completed Breath of the Wild. She can sit on the couch while I navigate and direct me to build things or explore the world. We don't really go into caves because she thinks I'm going to fall in all of the holes (I usually do), so I spend my evenings on Ian duty mining the ores needed to build all of the bunnies she wants (dad slave labour). Shown below are the Great Peeing Bird statue and Bunny Hill.
I last played Minecraft on the PC in late 2010, and it hasn't changed much. Getting started is as opaque as it once was. The interface and blocky graphics are the same. Crafting is much simpler ...
- Friday, April 16, 2021:
Review Day: Doom: Eternal
I bought DOOM: Eternal in a Steam sale a few weeks back (just in time for the first weekend that Maia spent away from us in over a year) and dove right now. I found it better than its predecessor but suffering from many of the same flaws. I considered DOOM (2016) to be flawed but fun: it was enjoyable to run around killing things in the game and a good fan service from the original 90s series. However, I never actually finished that game because I'm a completionist: I hated missing secrets and having to replay levels to get them, or continuously try the minigame challenges over and over without success.
This new iteration feels a little less like the mindless fun of the originals, as ca...
- Wednesday, April 01, 2020:
Augmented Fourth: 20th Anniversary Day
Twenty years ago today, on April 1, 2000 , I released my text adventure game, Augmented Fourth . After an awful trumpet audition before King Goosen of Papoosen, you're cast into Orchestra Pit where you discover a peculiar community living in a dormant volcano.
Since everyone loves round-number anniversaries, I have released an updated version of the game today:
Updated cover art.
Added a 20th Anniversary Retrospective to the HELP system.
Updated one puzzle to reduce the amount of unnecessary NPC cruelty required to win.
Adjusted various room exits for better map geometry.
Added a few more gentle hints t...
- Wednesday, February 19, 2020:
Review Day: World of Warcraft Redux
There are no major spoilers in these reviews.
The WoW Diary: A Journal of Computer Game Development : This is a fun look into the development of the original World of Warcraft (2000 - 2004), written by one of the original designers of dungeons and indoor spaces. It's only mildly technical and worth a read for anyone who has fond memories of playing WoW. It gets a little repetitive towards the end but is a fast, pleasant read throughout. Final Grade : B
World of Warcraft in 2020 : Out of nostalgia for the glory days , I resubscribed for a month of WoW to see what has changed. The answer? Nearly everything. Skill ...
- Friday, May 17, 2019:
Review Day: Grim Dawn (PC)
Built by some of the team that made 2006's Titan Quest (and with the same engine), Grim Dawn is one of the best Diablo II spiritual successors you've never heard of. It's not perfect, but it effectively scratches the action-RPG itch and I've already sunk almost 100 hours into it.
Grim Dawn is closer in style and pacing to Diablo II rather than Diablo III or Path of Exile . There's much less emphasis on movement skills and enemies feel more dangerous and harder to kill. Gear upgrades are less frequent but, as a result, feel more satisfying and well-earned.
The key discriminator of the game is its dual mastery syste...
- Wednesday, October 17, 2018:
Review Day: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Switch)
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was originally released for Nintendo's failed Wii U console. I'm torn on all the effort going into these ports -- while it's nice to play some fun games that never gained widespread appeal beyond the 4 people that actually bought the old console, I'd much rather have more original content designed specifically for the newer console.
Captain Toad is a charming puzzle game where you maneuver a pacifist Toad (who can't jump because of his heavy backpack) through 64 self-contained 3D puzzle boxes to collect gems and stars. Porting of the controls from the Wii U (which had a touchscreen in your lap to go with the big action on the TV screen) is pret...
- Friday, October 05, 2018:
(Re-)Review Day: Super Mario Odyssey
I first gave this game a C- after playing for several hours and not finding much to draw me back to it. After 6 months without turning on the Switch, I recently dusted it off and gave it another shot. One key difference between my original abandoned attempt and now is that I can play for longer periods (sometimes an hour at a time) and on a big TV screen rather than the portable screen. Back at Christmas time, I was squeezing in games while Maia barely napped for 10 - 20 minutes at a time (just narrowly long enough to get through the interminable load screens and reminders to use motion controls) while walking around quiet corners of the house.
I appreciate this game much more on the big screen, bu...
- Monday, September 10, 2018:
Beat Saber Day
Since the treadmill broke down, Beat Saber has been my regular cardio workout. Here are a few recent videos of some of the more challenging songs.
Can't Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake (Expert) (previously posted)
The Nights by Avicii (Expert)
Gangam Style by Psy (Expert)
Otter Pop featuring Hollis by Shawn Wasabi (Expert+)
New Rules by Dua Lipa (Expert+)
- Wednesday, August 29, 2018:
Review Day: Dead Cells (PC)
There are no major spoilers in these reviews.
Dead Cells is an addictive mash-up of three separate gaming genres. At its core, it's a side-scrolling platformer with monsters to kill and challenging boss fights like the Castlevania series. As a Rogue-like game, death is permanent and kicks you back to the beginning of the game with reset stats and basic starter equipment. Some earned abilities are permanent and persist beyond death, allowing you to explore old levels in new ways, evoking comparisons to the Metroid series and reducing the general level of frustration.
This feedback cycle of explore, grow powerful, and die is perfectly implemented, with interesting loot drops,...
- Wednesday, June 20, 2018:
Review Day: Beat Saber (Early Access)
"Not to sound like a shitty Ted Talk or anything, but virtual reality is finally here."
I pulled my Oculus Rift out of storage last week after not having played with it since that whole "having a kid" thing happened. In addition to re-downloading all of the games I partially played and dropped midway, I also used up some store credit on a pre-release version of Beat Saber , a rhythm game in which you slash through blocks with light sabers in time to the music. Since the awful first season of Riverdale proved that telling is inferior to showing, here is a gameplay video recorded in my new semi-permanent VR room (formerly known as "the workout room" and sometimes known as "th...
- Friday, June 15, 2018:
Review Day: Divinity: Original Sin 2
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an excellent Kickstarter-based, old-school role-playing game with minor deficiencies that will probably be ironed out in the Enhanced Edition coming out later this year (free for owners of the original). It features a top-down view with a fully rotatable camera, turn-based combat built up around Action Points that allow you to cast, attack, or move specific amounts, and an involving story based in high fantasy without feeling overused. If someone were to modernize Ultima 6 and Ultima 7 today, this is probably as close as you could get to those classics.
I enjoyed the original D:OS game until its cumbersome UI got in the way. This round is much more polished b...
- Monday, May 28, 2018:
Overwatch Retirement Day
I reached level 1201 in Overwatch last week, which got me a useless gold portrait border and a good point at which to stop playing the game so obsessively for a while. Overwatch has always been fun (and it's the only game I ever played contiguously for over 2 years) but like Hearthstone before it, it got to a point where I was mostly playing it because it was familiar, fit into the baby-nap-sized holes in my schedule, and I didn't have to think too hard about it. Recently, queue times are getting longer, the community is getting grumpier, and I'm not improving nearly as much as I want to. I'll still play a game now and again, but it will no longer be the default thing to do whenever free time exists...
- Monday, January 15, 2018:
Review Day: Legenda of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
There are no major spoilers in these reviews.
I have had a tempestuous relationship with the Zelda series over the years, and the ones I tend to like don't always match the ones that receive critical acclaim. A general rule of thumb is that I prefer the 2D games over the 3D ones, motion controls are always dumb, and the more cinematic they are, the worse games they tend to be -- I loved A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS but actually fell asleep a couple times while playing Skyward Sword on the Wii.
After about 20 hours of playtime with Breath of the Wild on the Switch, I remain unconvinced that it's a great game. It's not a bad game by a...
- Monday, November 27, 2017:
Overwatch Highlights Day
I haven't done much video editing work since Microsoft killed Windows Movie Maker (and I don't have the PhD or patience necessary to learn Adobe Premiere). However, I recently discovered Shotcut for lightweight movie editing and finally put together a highlights reel of all of the Overwatch Plays of the Game I'd amassed over the past couple years. Enjoy!
- Monday, November 06, 2017:
Data Day: Overwatch Level Over Time
One's account level in the game of Overwatch has no bearing on skill, but it does show the world how much time you've wasted invested playing video games. By charting my Overwatch level over the months since the game was released, I can see how my different jobs and offspring have affected my play time.
Conclusion : Children have a more detrimental effect on video game play time than any job.
- Wednesday, May 24, 2017:
Overwatch turned one year old yesterday. I started playing this game during the closed beta in February 2016, and it is the only game in recent memory that has retained my contiguous interest for more than a year. Even in the face of crazy VR games for the Oculus Rift, I still find myself coming back to Overwatch to unwind after a long day of work.
I haven't increased my stable of heroes that I'm good at playing, but there's still enough variety to make each game fresh and satisfying. Plus, the online community is "not awful", which is pretty high praise for any online community.
What games are you playing these days, and what upcoming games are you looking forw...
- Friday, March 10, 2017:
First Impressions: Oculus Rift
With the millions of dollars gained by selling back 5 weeks of leave from my last job, I decided to get one last pre-adulthood extravagance and purchased an Oculus Rift. Of course, it arrived just two days before they dropped the price by $200.
Not to sound like a shitty Ted Talk or anything, but virtual reality is finally here. After many false starts like those mall kiosks in the early 90s and awful 3D Televisions, the Oculus Rift is a high quality, consumer-grade solution that will change not only gaming, but also the way we interact with other people online. Using it for just a few minutes gave me a sense of technology awe that I haven't really experienced since the Wii first overpromised its motion contro...
- Wednesday, November 02, 2016:
I'm still enjoying Overwatch, as evinced by the 376 hours I've spent playing it. For reference, Steam says that I played Skyrim for 345 hours, Borderlands 2 for 232 hours, Fallout 4 for 214 hours, and Portal Stories: Mel for 30 minutes. I enjoy the fact that Overwatch matches are quick, self-contained, and always fresh, even though I haven't branched out from the few heroes I play the most.
Roadhog is my default hero pick, because I feel like I can make a difference in a game regardless of how good my team is. I've also become adept at "fishing for Tracers" with the hook, which is always satisfying.
Junkrat is the character I have the most fun with because he can be...
- Thursday, June 09, 2016:
Review Day: Overwatch
Over 7 million people purchased Overwatch globally in its first week of sales, which is comparable to everyone in the state of Washington playing at least 1 game. It's capturing a player base of unexpected people like Elon Musk while evoking moments where T-Pain expresses his love of gaming (language not safe for work). Even Rebecca tried a couple games against the AI as Winston, the gorilla scientist, and didn't have an awful time.
The game is essentially the same one it was when I reviewed in closed beta, and has not stumbled in the final polish stages at all. I've played steadily since release, and even reconnected with some old Starcraft friends who I hadn't been in a multip...
- Friday, May 27, 2016:
Overwatch for Beginners, Part III: Harder Heroes
Part I | Part II | Part III
Tricky Heroes : These are intermediate heroes with slightly more complicated skillsets that take a little practice to use effectively.
D.Va: Like Winston, D.Va is a secondary tank, good for disrupting the enemy but not as good for protecting your team. The trickiest part of her kit is combining her mobility skill with her self-destruct ultimate to maximize damages. It's best to think of Self-Destruct as a way to clear the enemy out of a particular area, rather than something that will kill lots of enemies.
Hanzo: Hanzo appears to be a sniper, but is actually more useful at mid-rang...