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Towerfall Ascension

I can imagine some sort of snarky wanna-be AVGN clone saying “Towerfall Ass-cension is the worst game since my butt” or something like that, it’s been running through my head since I bought the game.

Towerfall was the best-selling game for the Ouya, an ill-fated console from 2013. The Ouya was a Kickstarter-funded project intended to produce a console that would play Android games, with room for multiple players and real controllers. I never bought one, which is pretty much the case for the rest of the world too. I don’t have any dislike for Android games, and I actually thought this was a pretty good idea from a business perspective, but as it turns out, no one really wants to pay $100 for what is essentially a better version of phone games. Towerfall only sold about 7000 copies on the Ouya, and was later ported to XBOX and Steam under the name Towerfall Ascension, where it is doing much better. Read the rest of this entry

Hope You’re Not Sick of SGDQ 2015 Posts!

SGDQ 2015 officially ends Saturday, but the bonus stream will likely continue for a few days. As of right now the donation tracker is past 700K, which is amazing. I always watch these events for the fun, but it’s nice to know the effort does help a good cause (Doctors Without Borders). I don’t buy into all the “faith in humanity restored” hyperbole that people say when they are overreacting to things, but the Games Done Quick Marathons are altruistic and virtuous. Everyone needs to do their part to help, and the speedrunning community does it at least twice a year in huge marathons, and many more times a year in small ones. Tomorrow is going to be full of popular heavy-hitters, I highly recommend you tune in, and #killtheanimals.

Here are some excellent runs you may have missed in the past few days, though by all means I haven’t seen everything.

The Wheel of Time – I haven’t read the books, and I didn’t know they had a video game, but this run is fantastic. It has fun tricks and is very well explained by the runner, Shaddex. It’s a fairly calm and enjoyable run; one that I didn’t see coming.

Shovel Knight Low% Shovel Only – A run that shows off lots of tight tricks and a high amount of skill. They get at least one developer on Skype, which is always insightful and allows for good conversation on design choices, though processes, and what was intended. Runs where the devs weigh in are always my favorite choice for high quality commentary.

Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2 – PJ is a veteran of GDQ marathons; he maintains an entertaining and witty commentary while also showing off lesser-known games. In this case, the run had a lot of fun tricks and jokes to go along with it. There’s a lot of screaming, too.

I Wanna Be the Boshy – Witwix is another master of entertaining the audience with this strange game. Boshy is a precision platformer in the vein of I Wanna Be the Guy, but even more difficult and unfair. I personally quit Boshy in the second world, but I’ve beaten I Wanna Be the Guy, and that’s good enough for me. Watch this, or Witwix’s 100% run from AGDQ 2015.

Races – Mario Sunshine and Luigi’s Mansion are both fun races in games that demand a strong knowledge of game mechanics. As I’ve said before, races are some of my personal favorites, and are usually done to spice up runs of games that are common fixtures at GCD events. Be sure to catch the Super Metroid race Saturday, because if any game can be said to embody the speedrunning community, it would have to be Super Metroid.

Save/Kill the animals are two common donation incentives that raise a lot of money at GDQ events, and these phrases refer to the end of Super Metroid, where one can go out of the way to rescue animals from the exploding planet and allow them onto your ship. Obviously, this wastes time and speedrunners don’t do that, which is why I always donate to kill them, heartless monster that I am.

Next week I’ll be back to my regular setup of talking about specific games, but hopefully you’ve been enjoying SGDQ 2015 as much as I have! Thanks for reading.

SGDQ 2015 Continues!

As I mentioned on Monday, Summer Games Done Quick 2015 is happening this week. There’s always at least a few runs every marathon that are a cut above the rest, and since the marathon is now half over, there’s a few that I thought were especially good. In no particular order:

  • Yoshi’s Island – Trihex has been running the game for years and has it down to a fine art. He’s always putting on an interesting show, and the game itself is an incredible speed game with tight controls. There’s a reason the marathon opened with this game.
  • Sonic Boom – If you’ve never heard of Sonic Boom, it’s a really lazy and disappointing 3D Sonic game. The interesting thing about this run though, is how glitched and funny it is to watch. Knuckles can fly, you guys!
  • Resident Evil 4 – The run is done on Professional mode, the commentary is spirited and fun, and the experience is pretty impressive. I am bias though; I love RE4 no matter how cheesy it is.
  • Octodad Co-op run – Always entertaining to watch people play this game (it’s the QWOP of 3-d games), and with 2 people speedrunning it’s very impressive.
  • The entire Tetris block – Tetris Grandmaster is insane, and I believe only seven people have achieved that rank on Tetris Grandmaster Edition 3 (the subtitle of this game is TERROR INSTINCT, because Tetris is serious business). The runs feature the only Western GM vs. KAN, the best player in the world. If you watch anything, watch this.
  • Any race should be interesting, but the Mega Man X races are always cool. Lots of people run these games, so they can easily get 4 runners to race at once.
  • Earthbound – If you like Earthbound, watch this to see it get glitched and beaten in about 90 minutes. I personally love everything about the game and was sort of sad we didn’t get to see more of it, but it’s a really long game.

I’m sure I’ve missed some and will have more favorites later in the week, but for now, these are what I liked. I haven’t seen even half of the runs due to daily life and sleep.

Overall the marathon seems to be going great. Donations are high and so is the general energy of the audience and the runners. The couch commentary has been good, and the only run I’ve seen so far that I didn’t like was the run of Crash Bandicoot 2, due to the runner acting weird and saying off-putting things. As always, Twitch chat is spammy and awful, so I can’t recommend ever entering it.

When I think back to the fairly small, close-knit atmosphere of the first Classic Games Done Quick a few years ago, it’s amazing how far the marathons have come. The runners and organizers really work so hard to put on a good show, and it gets better every year. Tune in and see it, if you haven’t! Thanks for reading.

Summer Games Done Quick 2015!

Summer Games Done Quick 2015 started yesterday, so I won’t be productive at all this week. If you don’t know what that means, SGDQ and its winter counterpart, Awesome Games Done Quick, are annual video game speedrunning charity marathons. Speedrunners come from all over the country to participate in these week-long events, sometimes even running more than just one game. The audience can donate and comment on the events at any time, and there’s a lot of fun donation incentives (like donating for a 100% run of a game, donating to name the main character, donating to join a raffle for a PS4, etc.) and all the proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders. If you like watching people show off their skill and knowledge to beat video games very quickly, this is the stream to watch.

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Bloodborne – First Impressions

Even an innovative game like this still has the default box art design of “one badass standing in the middle”.

Bloodborne is a third-person adventure/horror(?) game made by From Software and exclusively on the PS4. It is the fourth game in what is known as the Souls series (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, and Bloodborne). Bloodborne has been out for a few months now, so hopefully most of the people who want to try it have gotten a chance by now. I’ve certainly gotten plenty of time with it this past week, and I’m not completely the worst player anymore. I have a lot of opinions about it because that’s what I’m good at.

The Setting

Bloodborne seems to be taking place in a sort of Victorian-Era London-y town named Yharnam. The architecture on display is mind-blowing, and the city would be beautiful, if not for the rampant werewolves, bonfires, and blood-red sky. The inhabitants apparently solve all their problems with magical blood, and now that I’ve arrived in town and been given a transfusion, so do I. The downside is that this blood usage seems to be people turning into monstrous beasts, but even so, blood is still basically the religion of the whole town, used to treat all illnesses, and is even a substitute for alcohol. So far I haven’t learned a whole lot about the situation other than I should hunt beasts, because I’m a hunter and that’s what hunters do.

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Little Big Planet 3

Sackboy is a great character because he's just a doll for you to play dress-up with. I have mine looking like a pirate right now.

Sackboy is a great character because he’s just a doll for you to play dress-up with. I have mine looking like a pirate right now.

I mentioned on Monday that I recently started having access to a PlayStation 4. Along with sucking at Bloodborne, I’ve been able to use it to play Little Big Planet 3 with my roommate. The game actually came out at the end of last year, but I never really heard much about it, or indeed, even knew they made a third one until this week. I love the previous two games’ take on puzzle platforming, so I was super excited to jump into it. Everything I have done in the game has been co-op with my roommate, so keep that in mind if you have had a different experience in solo play.

The Concept

I think the design concept for LPB as a series is brilliant. They always hit the same high notes of beautiful artwork, great music, and extremely detailed environments. Frankly, the level of detail is almost terrifying, were I to put myself in shoes of the designers. There’s thousands of different objects, costumes, and stickers, all spread out over the course of the game and used to give different levels cohesive themes, and it never starts to feel cluttered. It sort of reminds me of Katamari Damacy in this regard, except you platform over all the stuff instead of rolling it up.

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A Bunch of Topics!

I have a lot of things to say about the games I experienced over the weekend, but most of them either don’t warrant a full post or fall into a special category, which is “Things About Which I Would Like to Make a Video”. I want to make a video discussing the TALOS Principle, but I don’t know when that will come out, because I have never before made a video. Just call it Coming Soon™; I’ll keep writing in the meantime. It’s a scary proposition to try to learn basic video editing and structure, but I feel like the powers of visuals and voice are necessary for the topic. So now, here’s a grab-bag of topics.

Magic the Gathering

MTG recently had a new core set release named Magic Origins. It has some interesting lore that revolves around 5 well-known planeswalkers, chronicling their exploits from before and after they actually became planeswalkers. My friends and I bought a box (36 packs) together and did our own Sealed event. For the uninitiated, this means we each opened 6 packs and made a 40-card deck out of the cards, and then we played them against each other. Read the rest of this entry

Legend of Grimrock 2

Legend of Grimrock 2 was released in October 2014 and is an improvement over the first in almost every aspect. After the original’s sales proved the existence of a market for this type of game, the team set out to make a sequel with a much larger scope, and in my opinion, knocked it right out of the park. There’s more content, more imaginative puzzles, better skill progression, more races, more weapons, extremely varied locations, and an interesting overarching set of mysteries that tie the game together. Almost Human is a development team to keep an eye on in the future.

This game maintains the grand tradition of starting adventures with a shipwreck.

The first thing to note about Grimrock 2 is the existence of what the layperson calls “outside”. The previous game was spent entirely inside a dungeon, and while the dungeon looked nice and did incorporate many different styles of architecture, it was still a dark, cramped dungeon. Grimrock 2 does have some nice-looking dungeon parts, but the art for the outdoors maps is gorgeous. Forests, deserts, beaches, bogs, castles and pyramids are just a few of the locales the player will visit, all while exploring the same island.

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Let’s Deconstruct Super Paper Mario – Part 4

Let’s get back on SPM, it was a nice break from the topic but now it’s time to look at even more of this decidedly strange game.

We’ve obtained a 3rd Pure Heart, and the villains look pretty silly now. Dimentio is sent by Count Bleck to deal with Mario and co., and we find out that O’Chunks had to write 1000 pages about his failure. Now THAT’S villainous, torture by forced writing! Mimi isn’t around to apologize for failing, maybe she died. Bleck postures about how strong he is for a bit, and how good it will be to destroy the world, and says something about his heart suffering. His sadness isn’t explained yet.

We go to Luigi, who appears to be in the same place Peach was last chapter. He meets two Goombas, and expresses concern for their well-being, even though he regularly squashes them flat. Also these particular Goombas are jerks.

Even this tiny bit of concern is totally unwarranted.

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Video games are the best on sick days

When you were a kid, did you ever pretend to be sick to miss school, stay home, and play video games? I know I did. I can very distinctly recall doing this to make progress on Link to the Past and Pilotwings, and a lot of other SNES games as well (the only console I had as a child was my SNES). Honestly, it’s fun to play those games, but even better when you know you’re missing school. This tradition continues for most adults as well, I’m sure. I have many friends who I know have called in sick from their jobs on the same day to have LAN parties and 3-day weekend marathons, and I personally did this for the first day of World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm expansion. It’s pretty much a time-honored tradition among many gamers to do this on the release of anticipated games.

Skipping to finish this one was a no-brainer.

What games have you called in sick to play? Were they worth it? I’ve had games that I wanted to play and progress and see what happens, and to do so I’ve skipped classes and put off work. I did this when I was playing through Borderlands the first time, but it turned out to not be worth the trouble. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the game, but it certainly didn’t merit missing a class.

To me, gaming is always about enjoyment and escapism. I’m sure it’s the same for almost everyone else, and I know that I relax best when I think everything can wait a couple more hours/days/weeks. When I missed school to play these things, I did it to get away from responsibilities for a bit and just play the game. I like to turn my brain off when I’m gaming. To me, putting everything off for that day and just playing the game was the ultimate form of escapism, and still is. It isn’t smart or healthy to do often, but everyone needs a break once in a while.

So what I’m getting at here is that even though I know this was a stupid stunt to pull as a child, teenager, and college student, I still look back on those days fondly, because they were really fun. The freedom, the shirking of priorities, and the self-indulgence, I enjoyed that stuff even when I actually WAS ill. There’s a reason is have never thought of a “sick day” as a bad thing, even though the person is…well…sick. It’s a weird connotation to make, I know. Long live the trivial sick day.