weekend recap: hello goodbye wtf

Major developments this weekend!

1.  Said goodbye to Ni No Kuni this morning, as I sent it back to Gamefly.  The game is fine, I suppose, but a few things became very apparent during my last few sessions with it, namely:  (i) I was never going to get 60 hours of TV time with it before the baby arrived, and (ii) I didn’t feel particularly compelled to fight for TV time in order to play it.   If I were 13 years old and had all the time in the world, I suppose I’d be madly in love with it.  But as a 37-year-old with limited time on his hands, it feels a little too cutesy, and the combat system is needlessly tedious and cumbersome, and it’s just not what I’m in the mood for right now.

2.  Said hello to a brand-new Nintendo 3DS XL on Saturday.  This after I wrote up a big long thing (that I didn’t end up publishing) about how I was suddenly seized with this irrational desire to get one, and that even though I have a special savings account that is specifically designed to let me me buy expensive toys without feeling guilty about it, I was still feeling guilty about it.  Maybe I’m nervous about fatherhood, and buying a new toy will help distract me.  I don’t know.

In any event, I bought the thing, as well as Super Mario 3D LandProfessor Layton & the Miracle Mask, and Paper Mario Sticker Star.  (I was hoping to also get Ocarina of Time and Fire Emblem, but they were sold out.  And you know what?  I might simply rent Fire Emblem; I played a Fire Emblem title on the original DS and it stressed the hell out of me.  Turn-based tactical strategy games always tend to freak me out.)  When I got home, I also downloaded Pushmo and Crashmo; not sure what else there is to download that’s worth it – thought about Cave Story, but it’s unclear if the one on the eShop is in 3D or not.

The 3D is pretty spectacular, even if it makes looking at everything else a little weird – like this computer monitor, for example.  I suppose I’d like it even better if it had a higher-resolution display, but everything I’ve got for it right now looks pretty grand, and I can deal with it.  I even took it to work with me today, as I’m curious to see if I picked up any Street Pass activity, but it doesn’t look like it.  This doesn’t surprise me, frankly – since it first came out, I’ve maybe only ever seen 1 or 2 on the subway.  I’ve seen more Playstation Vita’s on the subway, actually, which is very surprising.

As for the games?  3D Land is pretty great, reminding me of a smaller-scale Galaxy.  The Prof. Layton game is also pretty great, even if some of the puzzles feel a bit cheap.  Paper Mario is… OK, I guess.  It’s not Mario & Luigi, which is what I’d prefer, but it’s still interesting.

Those of you with 3DSes – what else would you recommend I check out?

weekend recap: strangeness all around me

I’d started a post last week, but never got around to finishing it; things are still a little weird, and I’m finding very few pockets of idle time these days.  A brief summary of what’s going on in apartment-land can be found here.

As for games & stuff.

To be honest, these days I’ve mostly been playing Dungelot on the iPhone, which recently went free.  Also Pixel People, which is a strange but addictive hybrid of Tiny Tower‘s resource management and Doodle God‘s creation mechanic.

I’ve also been getting very deep into Antichamber;  I’m far enough into it now where I can only play it in short bursts before my brain starts hurting.  I feel like I’m not smart enough to talk about it.  Certainly it’s the closest thing we’ll ever get to living inside an MC Escher drawing.  It’s a very strange game for me to be playing right now, at any rate, because I only find myself with game time very late at night, when I’m exhausted from dealing with apartment stuff, and it’s not really a relaxing experience.

I took a sick day last week, and in doing so I plowed through the end of Devil May Cry (or is it DmC?) yesterday.  I liked it a lot, which is a hell of a lot more than I can say for any of the previous games.   I’m not a DmC fanboy, and I think that this game was made for people like me, and to that end I think they succeeded admirably.  The action was continually satisfying and engaging – and even if I played on the “normal” difficulty setting, so what?  I had a lot of fun with it, which is, again, a lot more than I can say for the previous games.  And the graphics and overall visual design continued to be just as jaw-droppingly insane as they were in the beginning; I’m tempted to buy it on Steam the next time it goes on sale just to be able to see it on my kick-ass monitor at 60 fps.

I’ve been slowly moving further along in Ni No Kuni.  My wife was sitting next to me on the couch, reading, and every once in a while she’d look up and say “This reminds me of a Zelda game.”  I kinda wish this was a Zelda game, to be honest.   JRPGs live and die more or less on their battle systems, and while there’s an awful lot to love about Ni No Kuni, the battle system feels a bit tedious and unnecessarily complicated; I’d much rather just engage in a real-time combat system.  I do like the idea of improving people’s moods by taking/giving heart, but the game (at least in the early going) holds your hand a bit too much, which means you can’t actually solve the puzzle on your own; you have to have this mandatory conversation that’s just long enough to be annoying, since you already know what it is you have to do.  Still, though, I’m only 3-4 hours in, having saved my game after finishing the missions in Ding Dong Dell and moving along to the next city, whose name escapes me.  Somewhere in the desert, I think.

Beyond that, it’s just apartment madness and work busy-ness and impending baby stuff.  Good times all around.

weekend recap: well, that wasn’t so bad

Firstly, some necessary meta-news to report:  the aforementioned apartment drama might very well be resolved, which is, as you might imagine,  a HUGE weight off of my shoulders.  I’m reluctant to say anything further, as we haven’t actually signed any leases or anything, and I don’t want to jinx it.  But the point is that I’m pretty sure we’re OK, and that the logistics of the move itself would be the easiest and least costly move we could possibly undergo, short of actually not having to move at all.

And so, in the midst of continued purging of apartment stuff, and the various frantic callings and emailings and textings of assorted realtors and landlords and such, I found that I needed to blow off some steam.  And so I dabbled in a bunch of games.

First off:  I finished 1 playthrough of The Cave, Ron Gilbert’s long-awaited new adventure joint with DoubleFine.  (My playthrough was with the Knight, the Time Traveler, and the Adventurer.)  Considering the pedigree of those involved in its creation, I feel a little cheap reducing my opinion of it to a 7-word sentence, but what follows sums up the experience pretty accurately:  it is equal parts charming and tedious.  The writing is certainly humorous but very rarely laugh-out-loud hilarious; the puzzles are, for the most part, straightforward and free of old-school obtuseness, but they can be exceedingly tedious to execute, requiring you to move three characters independently, all of whom move just slowly enough for it to become annoying after a while, especially when a puzzle requires frequent backtracking.  I still found the experience worthwhile, and I’m sure I’ll get around to seeing the other characters’ individual stories, but it’s a hard package to heartily recommend.

On the console front, I played a few levels of Devil May Cry.  I don’t really know how to talk about it; I’ve never been much of a DmC fan, and I don’t really know anything about the franchise or the character or the legacy or how radically different this particular reboot is.  I’m not necessarily all that good at these kinds of games, either; I rented it purely based on the review scores, which have been, more or less, exceedingly positive.  But what I can say is that, if nothing else, it features some rather astonishing visual design – some of the levels seems straight out of a Terry Gilliam fever dream, and I mean that as one of the highest compliments I can bestow.   So while I don’t particularly give a shit about what’s going to happen next, I do very much want to see what happens next, if you know what I mean.

I also reconnected my PS3 to my living room TV* so that I could get some time in with Ni No Kuni and The Unfinished Swan, the latter of which is currently only $3 or $4 on PSN for Plus subscribers.

Ni No Kuni is very charming, very beautiful, and very much a JRPG, with all the good/bad that goes along with it – the bad, in this case, specifically referring to a certain pet peeve of mine.  Lots of Japanese games do this particular thing, by the way, not just JRPGs, but JRPGs do it the most – where every single movement of a character, no matter how arduous, is vocalized.  You can be climbing up a mountain, or simply running along a shady lane, but every step of the way is grunted and oomphed and aahed and it’s very distracting and weird.  That aside, the game is as lovely and charming as you might expect a Level 5 / Studio Ghibli collaboration to be.   I can’t yet tell if the battle system is overly complicated or not; there appear to be a lot of mechanics that you need to be paying attention to at any one time, but the game does a rather wonderful job of showing you how it works.  I’m only an hour or two into it, but I’m definitely looking forward to spending more time with it, especially during this pre-baby, slow-release-calendar window we’re currently in.

As for The Unfinished Swan, I’m not sure what to make of it.   It’s an astonishingly well executed visual trick, and I certainly appreciate the attempt at an engaging narrative.   That being said, I’m currently in the blueprint level, and I’m a bit stuck; the controls are kind of terrible, all of a sudden.  I wonder if it’s because I’m not using a Move controller; I certainly hope not, because up until this point the game was controlling just fine.

I’m also sort-of still dabbling in Hitman Absolution; I’ve started to figure out how the game is supposed to work, even though I still find myself getting impatient.  I also find the game rather distasteful; all the characters are horrible (on purpose), and the world is really seedy and disgusting, and it’s a hard world to want to stay engaged in.  I can really only play for, like, 10 or 20 minutes at a time before I need to turn it off and cleanse my palate.  It makes me feel unclean.


* Because my wife was a recent Fringe fan and needed to binge very quickly on the first 4 seasons to get caught up for the current (and last) season, we’d had to move the PS3 into the bedroom and our other Blu-Ray player over to the living room, as the other Blu-Ray player didn’t have a wi-fi connection.   Suffice it to say, I hadn’t really missed the PS3 in the interim until this week.

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