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- Monday, October 16, 2023:
Review Day: Starfield (PC)
Starfield is an overwhelming breadth of janky, poorly-explained gameplay systems trapped behind a cumbersome, inconsistent user interface. It is also very FUN, offering the same shallow type of entertainment that Bethesda's previous games (Skyrim, Fallout) excelled at.
For reference, I'm someone with about 350 hours spent playing Skyrim , 350 hours playing Fallout 4 , and 550 hours playing Fallout 76 . I like the way Bethesda mixes exploration, combat, and a bit of story together in their games, and the way you can just ignore the main story while getting lost making your own fun in a sandbox environment. Eventually, though, there's a point where there's nothing left to do -- ...
- Friday, October 06, 2023:
Review Day: Diablo IV (PC)
My first impressions of this game held pretty true throughout my playtime. The game kept me entertained for about two months before I lost interest and moved on.
The graphics, music, and sound (even beyond the obligatory high-quality cutscenes that Blizzard is known for) are excellent, creating a brooding, ominous atmosphere for slaughtering demons. The gameplay loop is solid and addictive, with spells that are satisfying to cast and a reasonable number of options for builds. The story is 200% better than the middle-school play that was Diablo III's story, even though it eventually devolves into plot holes.
- Friday, August 11, 2023:
There are no major spoilers in these reviews.
Lincoln Lawyer Season One : This is a shallow, entertaining lawyer show that doesn't really add up to much by the end. It sometimes feels like a really weak channeling of Bosch with fewer cops. I had it on in the background while I did 5 hours of organizing around the house, and it was perfect for that purpose. On Netflix. Final Grade : B-
Black Mirror, Season Six : This five-episode season is very good but also very different from previous seasons. The focus on near-future dystopia and technology has lessened (maybe because the present has already become so gri...
- Friday, June 09, 2023:
First Impressions: Diablo IV
There are no major spoilers in this review.
It's been 11 years since Diablo III was released as a shallow, cartoony mess, and 9 years since Blizzard turned it into something worth playing long-term with an expansion pack. Diablo IV arrives in a new era where Blizzard games are no longer an auto-preorder because of a string of misfires (the overly monetized mobile version of Diablo, the Warcraft 3 remake that was broken out of the box, killing Overwatch 1 then dropping development on the only features of Overwatch 2 that made it different from 1, and the general ickiness of monetization and battle passes).
I purchased Diablo 4 with reservations, but reasoned that I would get a...
- Friday, October 14, 2022:
First Impressions: Overwatch 2
Overwatch was my favourite game for over 2 years, and a rarity in my gaming library as a competitive game that I could actually hold my own in (at least in the plebeian Unranked bracket). I finally stopped playing in May 2018 (with my account at level 1201 and over 1200 hours played) because the variability of real-time match lengths didn't work well with Maia's nap schedules, and I couldn't carve out enough time to practice enough and maintain my desired skill level.
It's from this nostalgic background that I decided I had to try Overwatch 2 at least once, in spite of the downward spiral that Blizzard's reputation has been in for many years, the departure of the well-liked game director, and the...
- Wednesday, May 11, 2022:
Random Chart Day: Most Played PC Games on Steam
Alternate Uses of This 1837 Hours
Obtain a 2nd job, working 35 hours per week for a full year.
Watch the extended edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy 161 times.
Walk continuously from Quebec City to Reno, Nevada and back again.
- Friday, May 06, 2022:
There are no major spoilers in these reviews.
Palm Springs : We went into this movie sight-unseen based on its appearance in a list of "best stuff to watch on Hulu", and that may be why we were so pleasantly surprised with how good it was. The movie does a good job balancing several contrasting tones, and never devolves into the realm of parody you might expect after seeing Andy Samberg on the cover. Everything is held together by great performances from all the leads (I've yet to see a bad Cristin Milioti performance). On Hulu. Final Grade : B+
Fallout 76 : My first impressions of this game continue to hol...
- Friday, February 11, 2022:
First Impressions: Fallout 76
Fallout 76 is a pared-back multiplayer version of Fallout 4 , offering you fun, shallow way to explore the world after nuclear war, this time in West Virginia instead of Boston. Released three years ago to uniformly awful reviews, the game has continued to improve with major content updates. I picked it up in a $10 Steam sale and find that it scratches the "explore, shoot, loot" Fallout itch quite well so far.
The game engine is the same as Fallout 4's, so many of the previous game's bugs and annoyances linger, like a cumbersome menu system where keys like Esc and Tab are overloaded poorly. There are major graphical improvements, though, and the choice of West Virginia as a setting offer...
- Friday, January 28, 2022:
Review Day: Flourish, Signature Edition
Flourish is a fairly recent "card passing" game where you score points for constructing the best garden while passing your weakest cards to your neighbors. Cards depict flowers and features that give your garden a raw score, and multipliers that crank those scores up at the end of each round and the end of the game.
I picked this up for the family for Christmas, having searched for a game that would be interesting for 2 adults to play but accessible enough for Maia "Tokaido Lover" Uri to play along with. It's a hit with Maia although she normally just builds the prettiest garden rather than caring about scores.
There's an overwhelming number of cardboard game pieces that need to be built, but 90...
- Friday, November 19, 2021:
Review Day: New World (PC)
New World , the ambitious new MMO from Amazon Game Studios is a happy mess, getting just as much right as it gets wrong.
There are no classes or dead ends in character development. Every character can practice and improve every skill, and each build is designed around picking two types of weapon and swapping between them. You can only have two characters, which gives incentive to really grow attached to your character and explore lots of different builds and professions.
In contrast to World of Warcraft , which has become so simplified and streamlined that you can level up by turning on your computer, New World moves at a more...
- Wednesday, November 10, 2021:
My work team is still in the depths of Puzzle Boat 8, having finished 65 puzzles in the past 19 days. While impressive, we still have 86 puzzles to go! I'm constantly impressed by the intricacy of these puzzle challenges from P & A Magazine . Each puzzle is approachable yet devious, with multiple "aha!" moments. Some of the puzzles require creative leaps, but everything remains internally consistent and solvable in retrospect.
To give you an example of the kind of puzzle-solving a Puzzle Boat takes, here's a puzzle from a previous year and how we solved it.
Phase I : There are rarely any instructions in a Puzzle Boat puzzle. You get a title, a cryptic clue in italics, and s...
- Friday, November 05, 2021:
Review Day: Walkabout Mini Golf (Quest 2)
Walkabout Mini Golf is a fun, relaxing VR game that really captures the spirit of going to the mini golf course on your beach trip.
At just $15, the game is packed with more content than some games from big deal companies. There are 8 unique 18-hole courses (each with a separate Hard mode) with new ones being added for free regularly. Early courses are very reminiscent of classic mini golf tropes, while the later ones are more imaginative (ever golfed in space?). When you're done actually playing golf, each course also has treasure hunts that unlock new cosmetic balls and putters to play with.
The mechanics of putting are great, and the fine differences between hard and soft swings f...
- Friday, October 22, 2021:
Review Day: Oculus Quest 2
The latest iteration of VR headsets, the Oculus Quest 2, is a muddle of compromises that is nevertheless worth it, due solely to its completely wireless gameplay.
Last year at this time, I was on the fence about VR -- my first generation Rift had developed a sound issue from a very common manufacturing problem and Facebook was charging 40% of the original price to get it fixed. They were also pairing headsets with Facebook accounts, which I still think is an awful idea. I finally decided to get the Quest 2 for my 42nd birthday because I wanted something new to do in the 15 minute gaps between childcare and I was sitting on too many bonuses from work.
The biggest improvement from the Rift to the Quest is t...
- Friday, September 24, 2021:
Review Day: Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Switch)
There are no major spoilers in this review.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a platformer in the "Metroidvania" genre, where further exploration nets you new tools that can unlock previously inaccessible areas. It combines a reasonably tight control scheme with visuals and music on par with anything in the Rayman series.
As the titular character, who isn't quite a bunny, you explore various environments in search of your owl friend and ultimately get swept up into a grander adventure. The game world is split up into several zones you can explore at your leisure and tightly choreographed chase scenes with very little room for error.
There are three difficult...
- 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...