Well it’s time for another recap of the previous month. April was the first full month in lock down and I can’t say that I’m tired of it yet. Though fundamentally I don’t think much of my daily routine has changed. Still working most of the day, still playing video games in my spare time, etc. Anyway, you’re not here for the quarantine report, so let’s dive in.
I’m fairly pleased with how things are looking on this front. Not an exceptional month, but the number of views held consistent from March. Crossed another post off my big list of tag posts to complete, followed Quietschisto’s advice and produced one of my favourite articles this year, and also finally got my #MaybeInMarch post out. There was one other article I had hoped to get out this month, but I thought after writing four posts in April I should pump the breaks lest I push myself too hard and burn out again.
One thing that has been rolling around in the back of my mind is reviews. Specifically the lack of them on my blog as of late. The only thing I’ve written all year that vaguely resembles a review is the not a review I wrote for Yakuza 0. And if we’re being honest, while my intention wasn’t to write a review that is certainly what the post reads like. The lack of reviews has been bugging me a bit, though the reason I’ve not written many is two fold. Firstly, they’re not nearly as fun to write, and thus not as enjoyable to read, as some of my other posts. Secondly, I’ve beaten very few games so far this year. So with a general lack of enthusiasm for writing reviews, and fewer games being played relative to last year the reviews poofed. I dunno. Maybe I’ll actually write a couple of those in the coming weeks if I can manage to finish the handful of games I’m plugging away at presently.
Slay the Spire
Given my recent post on the game, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I put quite a few more hours into Slay the Spire this month. I think with said post and finally managing to conquer ascension ten I can bookend my most recent stint with the game. I may or may not come back to it again in future. The over a hundred hours of play time I’ve sunk into Slay the Spire was well worth it though.
Alright. This is probably going to be the most exciting part of the post, at least for me it is. As I said last time I’ve been playing Fantasy Strike in the Wednesday night weekly tourneys that Toronto Top Tiers has been hosting online during the quarantine. Much to my surprise, I’ve managed to place in the top eight every single week. Usually we’re playing a sixteen person bracket, so that means I’m placing in the top half rather than the bottom half. Though my biggest victory was coming fourth one week. That week many of my matches were extremely close, which made for an incredibly exciting tournament.
Despite the success, I still clearly have a lot of learning to do. The really good players (which I am not one of) who enter the weeklies still absolutely destroy me as if I’ve never played the game before. I suppose that’s not a bad thing as always having something new to reach for helps to keep a game engaging, but I can’t quite articulate how frustrating it is to lose to the exact same subset of people every single week without showing any discernible improvement. There’s always next week.
Felix the Reaper
Here’s a game I didn’t have enough to say about to fill a review with. It’s a short puzzle game I played with Mir. You play as Felix and have to adjust objects in the environment plus change the orientation of the sun so that you’re able to safely move through the shadows while you setup Rube Goldberg style deaths for NPCs. It’s a neat concept and the game lasts exactly long enough to explore it without outstaying its welcome.
While my experience was mostly positive, there was two things that bugged me about the experience. Firstly the mouse controls were a bit fiddly. I’d usually run into issues trying to place objects in the environment. This wasn’t a huge issue given the game doesn’t require any ultra precise inputs, but I did find it a bit annoying. Secondly was the story. The whole time things are built up as though they’re going somewhere, but in the end the story amounts to a sequel teaser. Even though the story wasn’t the focus of the game I still wasn’t appreciative of that.
Here’s a weird one. THE LONGING is a point and click adventure that takes place in real time. You control a shade, the lone servant to a king who must rest for four hundred days in order to recover his powers. As it runs in real time you can, in theory, leave THE LONGING closed and return after the four hundred days to complete your assignment. Alternatively you can explore the various caves and solve a few light puzzles. By doing so you’ll likely find objects that you can add to the shade’s housing hole which will dramatically speed up how fast time flows while the shade is home. It’s a game where the main mechanic is testing your patience.
Given my general impatience I’m quite surprised that I don’t dislike THE LONGING. While I don’t regret the time I’ve spent with it I have mostly run out of stuff to do and that has been true since about the sixty day mark. I helped the shade expand its home, built it a bed, planted a garden, and filled said home with the finest collection of art and books. The shade is living life in style, but after trolling through the caves of THE LONGING so thoroughly I ran out of reasons to regularly check in. So while I was engaged for a time I feel like there could have been a bit more content for the long haul. Kim from Later Levels wrote a post that details the various different endings of the game, all of which I’d discovered during my time exploring the caves. I’m still in it for the long haul though. I will see the king awoken after four hundred days.
Virgo Versus the Zodiac
Similar to Slay the Spire, I wrote a post on my time with Virgo already so I’ll keep this short. For someone who tends to not enjoy JRPGs I really enjoyed Virgo. It kept combat snappy and engaging, which is regularly what kills my enthusiasm for a lot of RPGs. That and the overarching story really helped to push me through to the end of this one. It’s well worth checking out.
Murder By Numbers
I’ve been playing Murder by Numbers with Mir and I think this might be one I do as a shorter review sometime in May. It’s a blend between picross and a visual novel. The overarching story sees you playing as Honor Mizrahi and SCOUT as you solve various murder mysteries. I’ve seen a lot of favourable comparisons to Ace Attorney, but I don’t necessarily agree with that. For my money it is more of a picross game with a story. You spend the overwhelming majority of your time doing picross with the story informing why you’re doing the picross instead of things being the other way around. That doesn’t make it bad, but I think that does make the comparison to Ace Attorney a bit disingenuous.
Anyway, look for a review in May…probably.
Animal Crossing New Horizons
As I announced on twitter, Mir finally relinquished control of the Switch so I’m allowed to play Animal Crossing New Horizons. I’m a long time series fan who has been playing these games since the first one released on the Gamecube in North America and New Leaf, the previous entry, was my favourite game in the series by a country mile.
Aside: You all know what’s about to come don’t you?
I really don’t like New Horizons. At least, I’ve not been able to enjoy it the same way I enjoyed all of the previous entries. The crafting and resource collecting makes the game unbelievably tedious and constantly interrupts what I’m doing and reminds me that I’m playing a video game when I just want to peacefully, and mindlessly fish for a couple of hours.
There are also a number of really strange changes which I’d say act as steps backwards when compared to the older games. I loaded up my New Leaf save to verify I wasn’t misremembering how things were and can now say with confidence that New Horizons actively took steps backwards in terms of player convenience.
Why isn’t the item I’m actively using equipped on my character and removed from my inventory space?
Why can’t dressers/closets/fridges be used for storage when you’re stuck in a tent?
Why can’t turnips be stored?
These are three things that are all true in New Leaf, but aren’t true in New Horizons. You do get access to storage once you upgrade your house from a tent, but the amount of storage is rather limited when compared against the generous amount you get in New Leaf. I’m assuming that as my house improves so too will the amount I can store, but this change alongside the others is just bizarre.
You can call me a grumpy old man, but I feel like Nintendo got a free pass on New Horizons. I’ve only played for about eight to ten hours, so that’s a drop in the bucket for the amount of time it’ll take to really sink my teeth into the game, but I feel like the longer I play the more I’m going to be disappointed. We’ll see how I feel after I finish constructing the fortress of solitude on the Northern half of the map.
Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment
Mir also bought Shovel Knight at some point on the Switch, so I’ve been playing through the remaining two dlc campaigns I never got around to on the Wii U. First up was Specter of Torment and I feel about it the same as I felt about the Plague Knight dlc: I didn’t care for it. By all rights it is fine. I just have a thing where I really don’t like when I can’t bop enemies on the head while playing a platforming game. At least the Specter Knight campaign makes it easy to look cool while playing. I’m hoping the final campaign staring King Knight is a little more up my alley, but you’ll have to wait until next month’s wrap up post to find out.
One Step From Eden
I have a lot to say about this game. It’s getting its own post.
For now enjoy this silly thing I tweeted out.
And finally Hollow Knight. Not much to say here. I’ve been replaying the game as part of a weekly Friday Night stream. I’ve been enjoying replaying it. Plus having company in the Twitch chat including, but not limited to: Gaming Diaries, Kim and Pete from Later Levels, Quietschisto from RNG, Dan from nowisgames, and Jett from In Third Person makes it an even more lovely experience. Though it probably helps that the lot of them continually praise me as some kind of platforming Jesus regardless of how many times I bungle the odd couple jumps.
Here’s five of my favourite posts from April written by other members of the community. If you haven’t already checked them out you should.
Extra Life – A Rebuttal to James Whitbrook: Our Fascination With Canon Is Not Killing the Way We Value Stories
Agoners – Euro Fantasy Strike Players Series: #6 – Arnei
A Geeky Gal – 6 Ways I’m Coping With Self Isolation
Time to Loot – Difficulty of a Different Kind
Everything is Bad for You – Why Aren’t Visual Novels More Popular in the West?
Ho boy. I knew that was going to be long, but I didn’t realize how long. I finished three games over the last thirty days, but didn’t realize how much time I’ve been splitting between various titles. No wonder if feels like I haven’t gotten anything done…
Anyway, if you actually continued reading this far: thank you. It was a weird month. Full of some high points and some low points. Hopefully next month I’ll have that one mystery post out, alongside a review or two, and another tag post.
After I heard about “Felix the Reaper”, which you only describe as a “short puzzle game”, I thought I should check it out. About two and a half seconds into the trailer I had serious thoughts about “What. The. Everliving. Fuck!?”
But then I saw it’s from Daedalic, and everything made sense again…up to the fiddly controls and the lacklustre story. Though I find it immensely funny that they got inspired by “Totentanz”.
Which, by the way, is also the title of one of my favourite songs of a German medieval metal/folk band I like. Unfortunately, you won’t find the song on the Internet, but I could send it to you via Discord. Or you listen to Totentanz by Corvus Corax, another band of that type. The songs are pretty similar (although I still prefer In Extremo’s version, even if I like Corvus Corax better in general). That is something you now know 🙂
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So is totentanz some kind of folk lore thing? You seem to be a lot more familiar with the company and the source material than I am, so now you’ve caught my attention. 😛
Death is a pretty common motif throughout Europe in general. Totentanz (Dance of the Dead) or Danse Macabre is pretty much the party version of Death. Basically we were saying “As soon as we are birthed, we start to die, so let’s celebrate death!” Dance-dance-dance ’till you’re dead *insert bouncy dog meme*
Daedalic is a German Developer and Publisher, and they are known for their outlandish and sometimes a bit bizarre ideas. Also, for some weird (not always in a good way) humour and sometimes lacklustre execution.
But they are not inherently known for using death in their games, I just find it funny because it’s such a typcial medieval European theme that I like very much.
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Hey, thanks for the shout! It’s really unfortunate how anti-intellectual critics and journalists have become, isn’t it? I’m not sure when logic became the enemy, but as long as they perpetuate that sentiment, it doesn’t encourage artists to be at the top of their game. It’s probably why the indie gaming scene is doing so well right now; they’re some of the only artists out there making art for its own sake, and they’re leaving pretty much everyone else in the dust as a direct result.
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I think that part of that may stem from the prevailing attitude that “I am right” and that any kind of questioning that comes toward you disproves your rightness. Being right seems to be far more heavily weighted in arguments than actually having a discussion. Like…people aren’t interested in discussing the merits of a piece of work, rather they want to correctly label it as “good”, “bad”, etc. And yeah. It doesn’t necessarily provide the kind of feedback loop that helps to push the medium forward.
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That’s pretty much what Ola G said on my post as well; this is what happens when, as a critic, you’re approaching your craft with the intent to “win” rather than to reach a consensus once all the information is known. The feedback loop that directly resulted from it is precisely why George Lucas failed with the prequel trilogy. He always had issues with his writing, but in his heyday, he at least had the self-effacement to run his scripts by his peers. When it came time to create the prequel trilogy, however, he had clearly surrounded himself by yes-men (and yes-women, presumably). Those films are what happens when you have complete creative control and no one around to override your bad decisions.
The indie filmmakers of today are largely in that exact same spot George Lucas was in – only they get acclaim for their misbegotten writing. When critics can’t overcome their confirmation bias, they’re no longer critics, they’re yes-men. Without anyone to provide honest feedback and the critics’ tendency to denounce anyone providing a dissenting opinion as a heretic who dares take the names of the cinematic gods in vain, bad trends in writing are allowed to flourish unabated.
The reason indie games are so far ahead of everyone else is because even the ones that line up with critical sensibilities well are still much closer to the average consumer than other creators, who are becoming increasingly out of touch, and because their insistence on appealing to critics who are likewise out of touch, they come across as interchangeable cogs in a machine. Creators like that don’t produce art; they produce Art™ – a generic brand meant to be produced and consumed in large quantities specifically for the people it’s made for and practically no one else.
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Thank you for the link to Agoners Fantasy Strike stuff! 😀
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You’re welcome. It’s well deserved. I really like the interview series you’ve been doing. 🙂
Appreciate the link, Frosti. 🙂
We’ve discussed before, but I will admit again — I’m at least a little relieved that it wasn’t just me when it came to bouncing off ACNH. Even without the context of the prior entries, there were just too many (on their own) little things which I think could have been improved without sacrificing their vision for the game.
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Yeah…and unlike yourself I am a long standing series fan and I’m finding the newest entry just…it’s all a bit much. Even after you get the ball rolling there are still small things that waste time for the sake of wasting time. Alone it wouldn’t be an issue, but they compound into this nasty beast of seemingly obvious problems that haven’t been addressed in any capacity.
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Thanks for the link!
I know what you mean about writing reviews. I’ve only written one proper review this year myself, but I’ve found focusing more on the long-form analysis stuff is working out for me.
Your post also reminded me of One Step From Eden. I haven’t bought it, but I really like the art style. I might check it out sometime.
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You’re welcome. 🙂
Those pieces also have the benefit of not necessarily needing to be super relevant to be somewhat interesting as well. I also find they tend to invite more discussion, which is a lot more exciting than seeing a review get viewed a bunch cause it was topical.
It’s interesting…in a good way.
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