The Busted Controller Arc
You see that sleek little bastard in the header image? That is the 8BitDo Pro 2 for the Xbox One/Xbox Series consoles. Naturally, a PC works too.
If you have a craving for pushing buttons to make things do stuff on a TV or computer screen, these are supposed to be some of the best on the market. As someone who has been privy to both the Xbox and Switch models, I can concur that they are the knees of bees. Great construction, excellent body, hints of dark chocolate...
There's just one small stipulation, and that's that I seem to have the absolute worst goddamn luck in keeping them in decent condition.
Yes, I said "luck". Because you'd think keeping your controllers as pristine as possible would be entirely under your control. Somehow, strangely, not with me. Zero spills, no drops onto the floor, I even kiss it goodnight and sing it sweet lullabies and yet you'd think I treated them like fried liver.
And this isn't just an 8BitDo problem, this is happening across all my controllers!
I have to wonder if my extra musk-inducing space heater is expanding certain plastics and, thus, making buttons stick to or grind against the outermost edges of the holes which they occupy. I can relate.
Or I'm being haunted by someone with a thoroughly mundane sense of humor. I love a good mystery!
Thankfully, none of this nonsense kept me from doing what I do best: stay inside, away from natural light, playing video games. So, whilst I'm over here playing detective, pass some time reading my invaluable video game opinions!
+ Supremely satisfying combat
+ Stunning, unique art style
+ With all your abilities unlocked, you can speed through mobs in such a way that genuinely makes one feel like a goddamn ninja
+ Wide breadth of worthwhile content and unlockables, especially when grouped with the DLC
- I don't know... thereeee aren't enough hours in the day, during which to play this more?
(SIDEBAR: So many years later and this monolith to the roguelite genre still impresses me, still keeps me engrossed and still even releases the occasional content drop. One Early Access period and three post-launch, paid content drops later, and we should, according to recent comments by the developers, expect even more!?
I'm just... flabbergasted. Keep on truckin', Dead Cells. I'll be along for the ride the whole way through.)
[Score = 9.5/10]
+ A rare slice of small town life
+ A surprisingly great, albeit limited, country OST
+ An initially humbling adventure that inspires one to reach for the simpler things in life
- Mail delivery could have been expedited and/or fleshed out considerably
- The occasional touching chat aside, the dialogue lacks depth and borders on robotic especially towards the end
- Content is stretched incredibly thin, even for as short as this is
[Score = 5.5/10]
Super Meat Boy Forever
+ A surprisingly suitable transition from freeform platformer to auto-runner, when considering the tone and mechanics of the original
+ Some occasionally very clever level design
+ Really good OST
+ Hectic, hair-pulling fun to be had trying to S-rank harder stages
- The replay function isn't nearly as entertaining as it once was when more Meat Boy clones are inexplicably spawned in at checkpoints
- Later levels are a little too trial and error
[Score = 8.5/10]
Super Meat Boy
+ Simple, pleasing visuals
+ Buttery smooth controls
- Meat Boy sticking to walls infuriates when you just want to casually... unstick
- Despite its quality, the new remaster soundtrack doesn't hold a candle to the original's
- Level design typically consists of one or two 5-second ideas, which leaves little room for said levels to have any real sense of identity
(SIDEBAR: I didn't expect to come back to this feeling so hohum, but here we are.
I also didn't expect to consider an auto-runner sequel to a real-time platformer markedly better, but life do be funny that way.)
[Score = 6.5/10]
+ A charming visual style and audio spectrum
+ Using enemy skulls to replant trees and maximize your score is, apparently, just abstractly crazy enough to work
- Despite the fun factor, there's only one mode with three difficulties and that leaves a little too much to the imagination
(SIDEBAR: For the record, even though this is only just above average, the cheap price will make the entry go down smooth. The same can be said for TEMPLE OF RUBBO a little further below. Both are worth a few hours of innocent fun.
Also, play the original Woah Dave! Any fan of Super Crate Box won't regret it.)
[Score = 7.5/10]
Diablo 3: Eternal Collection
+ Beautiful visual style, albeit not always put to excellent use in the wider open areas
+ Probably the most addictive leveling system I've experienced, giving you several new abilities and/or modifications to toy around with each level
+ Flexible, fun character builds that simply rely on, ideally, stacking co-mingling traits that can be switched out on the fly
+ Content-packed like very few other games are
- The inevitable tedium that comes with the territory, no matter how easy it is to let slide
- The writing and lore are, whilst sometimes deliciously cheesy, incredibly shallow, often devolving into mad-libbing a bunch of random nouns
[Score = 9/10]
+ Cute meshing of OG Space Invaders and Galaga
- ... but, that's just about ALL it is
(SIDEBAR: There really is that little to say about this one. Right down to the nuances of the enemy movement, controls, etc. it is but a humble space shooter that bounces between mimicking Space Invaders and Galaga.
The first time it shifted gameplay styles, I thought it was pretty damn cool! I actually figured it might continue evolving and bust out some Centipede or Defender, but alas... what might have been.)
[Score = 6.5/10]
+ Nice art style
- Mundane combat
- Enemies respawn within seconds, removing what little fun there was to be had with the gameplay
- Blasé map design
- Lackluster audio
[Score = 3/10]
TEMPLE of RUBBO
+ Adorable aesthetics
+ Great OST
+ Impressive for a roguelite crafted, presumably (knowing the developer), over the course of just a few short weeks
+ Good for a few hours of cute, modest fun
- Stiff controls (albeit, sometimes, by design)
- Lacking in anything truly unique or interesting
Not so much a trailer, but the closest I could find is footage of the developers playing it
[Score = 7.5/10]
Serious Sam: Tormental
+ Fundamentally solid gameplay
- The soundtrack is like if Crash Bandicoot's was in a stupor
- Generally just a boring, hackneyed way of brandishing the Serious Sam IP
[Score = 5/10]
10 Minutes Till Dawn (20 Minutes Till Dawn Demo)
+ Super fun, bombastic gunplay
+ Cool build opportunities
+ Builds upon Vampire Survivors' core mostly successfully, and with a fresh spin, at a time where I'm fresh off of being done with said game after a feverish 25+ hours in a very short timespan
- Very little variety (but, hey, it's a free demo)
- Balancing issues, where most upgrades feel take or leave, there are those few that outshine others and will potentially funnel the player into the same paths
[Score = 8/10]
Nobody Saves the World
+ Wonderful visual style
+ Solid OST
- Overly-simplistic yet often contrived combat system
- Excruciatingly slow pacing
- Mostly trivial upgrade token paths
[Score = 5.5/10]
+ Novel concept
+ A faint sense of the atmosphere the developer TRIED to go for
- Generally finnicky to achieve your goals thanks to arbitrary thresholds for success that the given coordinates seem to deliberately mislead you about
- Boring when not frustrating
(SIDEBAR: I do not understand the praise for this one. I'm usually very hesitant to call a game overrated, but this is on the cusp of that sordid adjective.
Remember that spooky crawlspace bit in Gone Home? You knew for a fact nothing would kill you in a game like this, but it uses trickles of lore, world events and a claustrophobic space to make you think "... but, what if?" In Iron Lung, mostly nothing happens outside distant rumblings and the occasional meagerly mysterious photoshoot. To that, the game's mechanics completely detached me from the horror, which was to spend minutes on end carefully navigating my sub to specific positions and take photos of seemingly random bones and monoliths.
The game is static like a lot of indie horror joints, yes. But, it doesn't do a good enough job of fooling me into thinking it isn't. I had heard my share of hull creaks and distant rumblings.
95% of the time, it was purely boring. What intrigue that was there didn't justify the work I put into triggering it.)
[Score = 4/10]
Skul: The Hero Slayer
+ Decent flair and combat flow, especially with certain builds
+ Some creative skulls that force you to rethink how you approach engaging enemies
- Very, very dull until you unlock more vendors at your castle base and can hit the ground running after each death
- It's defining gimmick isn't fleshed out enough
- Lacking, unceremonious presentation
- The fixed, end-of-biome boss fights, upon repeat plays, get far more tiresome than the randomized mini-bosses
(SIDEBAR: Considering its derivative nature, it's not hard to see why barely 20% of players, according to the achievements, got past even the first biome's boss.
At least were it not for Dead Cells, this game's flow of combat would seem far more interesting for a roguelite.)
[Score = 6.5/10]
+ Mechanically, conceptually creative
+ Really solid, sometimes interesting combat
+ Its extreme likeness to Binding of Isaac is both a blessing...
- ... and a curse, as I have fun playing but have a tough time sticking with it or starting it up in favor of Binding of Isaac
[Score = 7/10]
Nogunz: Doppelganger Edition
+ The tune that plays in the hub world sounds suspiciously close to Jefferson Airplane's mega classic "White Rabbit"
- Incredibly stiff combat
- Some confusing mechanics
- Visually messy
- Includes rooms that are designed, seemingly, to solely test one's patience
(SIDEBAR: It's not the very worst game I've played since starting this log, but I have never fucking hated a game quicker. Holy shit.
[Score = 2/10]
20 Minutes Till Dawn (Early Access)
+ Skin of your teeth, twin-stick shootin'
+ Most builds take a pleasant level of strategy to chart out over the course of the full 20 minutes
+ Characters/weapons typically offer different playstyles and encourage some builds over others
+ The pleading of my soundcard to stop on some more nonsense builds is like an angel's chorus
- As of writing, there is but a single level layout, and with fixed boss encounters (issues the developer has stated they want to tackle, so hoowah)
- Supremely OP builds are sometimes far too easy to access (especially with the Frost Mage tree), but hopefully a fresh slew of other upgrades along with some balancing will smooth this out
- The recently-added Endless Mode is pretty mundane
(SIDEBAR: Vampire Survivors occupied my free time in a big way earlier in the year. It was, at first, such a perfect amalgamation of casual play and hardcore challenge. Eventually, though, my impressions subsided and I began to want more out of the formula. Enter 20 Minutes Till Dawn.
Allowing the player to participate in a more substantive role via the twin-stick shooter gameplay is what got me hook, line and sinkered into 20 Minutes Till Dawn with a hour count 3x as girthy as my already impressive Vampire Survivors time sink. It's everything that made Vampire Survivors a hit, but they give you a gun! Bam pew boom pow pow!)
[Score = 8.5/10]
+ Successfully distills Darkest Dungeon's gameplay loop down into something more tailored for shorter play sessions
+ Absolute banger of a OST
+ Neat class-morphing gimmick
- Despite the charm found in these shorter play sessions, the game does sacrifice a lot of the nuance that helped Darkest Dungeon succeed
[Score = 8.5/10]
+ Very good level design that steadily introduces modest new concepts
+ Completely by chance, it supports my 3rd party Switch controller!
+ Beautiful color schemes with interesting contrasts
- None of the game's concepts are exactly new, even if the game implements each trope tactfully
[Score = 8/10]
+ Incredibly charming, Sims-like art style
+ Super high skill ceiling with an ability to wildly commit any number of activities, not just basic survival or zombie-killing
+ I can only imagine MP is very fun for those interested
- Supremely uninviting to newcomers, with an almost useless tutorial that still practically throws you to the wolves
- Melee combat can be, occasionally, disorienting
(SIDEBAR: I have a feeling I'll be coming back to this game on the occasion, just to see if I can further get the goddamn hang of it. After 5+ hours, I'm still pretty clueless!
I just know I'd love the game if I knew my way around it. Even YouTube player guides have only instilled so much. However, I will return. Possibly later in the year. Until then, Project Zomboid is more commendable than actually enjoyable.)
[Score = 7.5/10]
Oh, back already? You didn't give me nearly enough time to slip my underwear back on!
What was I doing? Solving the mystery, of course! What did it look like I was doing? ......... oh, that's, tha-just isn't true at all!
Look, I'm taking this very seriously, but it looks like, for the time being, I'll be getting no help from you. I think maybe you need to take a break and not come back until your misdeeds have been cleansed. See you next time, heathen!