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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Chuck's LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, January 18th, 2017
4:49 pm
Game of Thrones (TV Series, Season 6)
Now completely off the book-drawn map because GRRM took deadline lessons from Douglas Adams, Westeros continues to be a really shitty place to live.


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Overall: I appreciate that they have a clear and set end to this and the series is going to resolve the story. So many shows (and books) get into “go on forever” mode and just keep spinning out new plotlines. At this point, someone will definitively win the Game of Thrones. 
Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
4:32 pm
Kirby Planet Robobot (3DS)
An alien spaceship lands on Kirby’s home world and conquers it in moments…but that’s just because Kirby hadn’t woken up yet. Haltmann Works Corporation won’t know what hit them.

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Overall: If you liked Kirby Triple Deluxe, this is more semi-3D excitement and action/puzzle platforming in the exact same vein. Different art assets and different excuse plot, the same Kirby action I continue to enjoy. Now with more giant robot suits!
Thursday, January 12th, 2017
4:43 pm
Book Capsule Reviews
Please Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon by Richard Roberts - The second book in the series, one that raises the stakes for Penny and her friends by taking them into off-planet steampunk adventures. Jethrien notes that, man, Jupiter colonies are a terrible and terrifying place to live—this universe actually isn’t very nice. Bigscary has a theory that Penny has two powers: Channeling other people’s mad science, and understanding her own. I’m going to guess that they’re actually bundled, and channeling is the method by which she deconstructs mad science into reproducible science (which is specifically her father’s power). I suppose if I keep reading the series I’ll find out.

Sisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star - I’m not entirely certain this was a good book—it’s about a family of broken people, told in multiple time periods from the perspective of the eldest daughter—but it became a page-turner for me because, excepting a few details and (admittedly major) events, it could have been my mother’s family. The mother’s unhealthy selfishness/self-involvement and the father’s disengaging/non-involvement created three women who, while “functional,” are screwed up in dramatically different ways and, in turn, inflict that on their children and each other. The tuning out, the hyperfocus, the casual exaggeration, the careful avoidance of emotional talk; and all the mental flinching and catastrophizing. It’s disturbingly relatable, and it stamped on my hot buttons in a couple of places.

The Android's Dream by John Scalzi - I think this is actually one of Scalzi’s weaker novels because it feels more like a strung-together collection of satire than a coherent narrative. The Old Man’s War series was solid sci-fi with some funny or satirical bits built in; Redshirts was consistent and loving satire. The series of events here can at best be called “wacky” and mostly just runs through opportunities to show off either a) near-future spec-fic ideas or b) thinly-veiled satire of a wild assortment of topics. (And the most unbelievable of these was that the government kept records of all 3D printers that could be used to make guns. The idea that any kind of gun-related regulation, let alone a manufacturing database, could ever be passed is ludicrous.)

Blue Limbo by Terence M. Green – This is a pot-boiler action/revenge movie that happens to have some sci-fi props: Mitch is deeply disturbed by his divorce and general manpain. His ex-wife calls him violent and dangerous, and she’s absolutely right. We’re presented with a crappy, crime-ridden world and the people who have it hardest are cops; those poor, poor cops. “Thin blue line” mentality at its finest, convinced that police need to be psychopathic heavily-armed soldiers, and they can’t effectively fight the army of criminals because of all the namby-pamby politicians tying their hands. On the other hand, I enjoyed this as a triumph of “zeerust”, sci-fi that shows the dated future predictions. There are absolutely no cell phones, but everyone has a video phone that can be switched from “tone” to “pulse” (and I’m amused that I remember what that means!). They also use cassette players and physical address books, but have hand-held laser guns, perfect lie detectors, and bionic limbs (and the titular “blue limbo” which allows an intact brain to be briefly revived after death). It’s amusing to see what a man born in 1947, writing in the mid-90s, predicted for the future; and how shockingly little difference 20 years can make when it comes to sociopolitical trends.

Dear Cthulhu Vol. 3: Cthulhu Know Best by Patrick Thomas - More of the same from the first two volumes, but still amusing in measured doses. The wildly inflated idiocy of the writers (which is still not actually that far above some letters than actual advice columns get) continues, and Cthulhu takes on the long-suffering tone of an agony aunt who can, and probably should, just devour all that lives rather than listen to your stupid babble, but is magnanimous enough not to.
4:41 pm
The Games We Play
As ARR has gotten heavily into board games over the past few months, I thought I’d make a little log of what works, what doesn’t, and what has to be modified.

The first games we introduced were Thomas’ Great Race, Candyland, and the Snail’s Pace Race. None of these are games that adults would have any interest in playing, and at this point they need a story built around them to hold his interest.

From our closet of games came a bunch of games he can pretty much play: Mancala (which they have at his school, too, and he’s genuinely getting good at), Star Wars Life (which he needs reading help on, but otherwise plays according to the rules), Pass the Pigs (a rather terrible dice-rolling game), Jenga (which doesn’t hold his interest for long before we collapse the tower), Go Fish (an easy classic), SET (which he’s slow at, but gets the general concept of). And also his brief obsession Battle Masters, baby’s first tabletop miniatures wargame.

Other games that have since been introduced with little modification: ModX (a delightful find from a con grab-bag that has been a huge hit), Uno (via my parents), Richard Scarry's Busytown Eye Found It! (a cooperative seek-and-find game he got for Christmas), Castle Blast (a simplified version of Battleship he got for Christmas), Oregon Trail (current obsession, Jethrien dies of dysentery a lot) and a 100 Classic Games box set (of which we’ve had reasonably successful goes at Checkers, Snakes and Ladders, and Tiddlywinks).

Games that require modification are, unsurprisingly typically ones that either require a lot of reading or a complicated set of rules. Both X-Machina and Superfight are in the former category, as he’s down with drawing cards to make crazy inventions or superheroes, but can’t really get the strategic aspect yet and needs help knowing what’s on his cards. I should probably try to teach him the real version of Kill Doctor Lucky, as it’s been months since my 19.5 Anniversary Edition arrived and I made up a simple “move around the board” game using it.

And then there’s No Thank You, Evil!, where he goes on adventures as Tiger Kid with his sidekick Robodog. I’ve been running random one-off stories with the Story, Please! expansion deck, very fast and loose. I’ve just started introducing the concept that you can use setpieces to solve puzzles, rather than just trying to punch or sneak past everything. Next, also, we’ll try it with an additional player.
Monday, January 9th, 2017
4:40 pm
You Know What Else is Dangerous? BundleStars – Part Twenty-One: Playlist Bundle 4
Taimumari - This feels like a standard NES platformer with some modern concessions--you can choose the order that you do the levels in and you get a new power at the end of each one (a la Mega Man). You can also spend the stars you collect between stages to improve your attacks, magic or life meter. Even on Easy mode, there were several parts I found "cheap"--the smashing walls in the Fallenstar stage really require that you just memorize where they're going to be. Also, the awkward Engrish is thematically appropriate, but didn't actually contribute to my enjoyment of the game.

Two Digits - You're given nine numbers and two buckets; you need to pick a combination of numbers that will make the buckets even. There are several hundred stages, but that's everything there is to this game. Not a terrible concept, but it gets old really quickly.

PIXELMAN - A runner game featuring a particularly inept superhero, who flies in upward bursts and can barely touch a building or the ground without dying. While the graphic scheme brought back fond memories of the Atari 2600 Superman game, I didn't find the gameplay particularly fun.

Zeus vs Monsters - Math Game for kids - Exactly what it says on the tin: A math game in which, playing as Zeus or Athena, you must solve math problems in order to throw spears at monsters. It's Math Rabbit for a new generation. I'll show it to ARR in a year or so.

Butsbal - Little colored boxes shoot bouncing balls at each other in a small arena. Now, this is clever in that the balls bounce and only disappear once they hit a player or another ball, so you can score kills even when you're dead/busy respawning; and the major defensive move is to shoot down incoming projectiles. That said, that's pretty much all there is to this.

NeXus: One Core - This looks like it's going to be a shoot-em-up, but it's actually a runner game in which you must dodge and change your shield color to pass through obstacles. It's very pretty (if hella repetitive), but the graphics were clearly their big area of focus, because the entire game is just weaving back and forth at higher speeds.

Keebles - A more vehicle-oriented World of Goo, this really needs more tutorial than it has. If you like trying out designs (semi-randomly), observing how they fail, making slight changes and try, trying again, then you can science the heck out of this game. I apparently don't have the patience.

Dark Years - An exploration horror/mystery game with some of the impressively worst voice acting I've ever heard--it sounds like they got overtired Russian grad students to voice everything. I'll admit, the shaky-cam/quick-time event opening scene made me vaguely nauseous, and that influenced my decision to abandon the game five minutes into the first real chapter. But I don't think I'm missing much.

Energy Balance - This was neat--it's basically a series of pseudo-Kakuro puzzles, in which you need to rearrange numbers to fit them into a summation grid. The framing story is pretentious nonsense about a philosophical alien and their robo-cat repairing their spaceship. But the puzzles are appropriately mind-bending if you like this sort of thing.

Moonlight - A little cat-like creature wants to go to the moon, and needs to trade hats with all the other Lumpos to achieve that. A combination of puzzle adventure game and platformer, which is an interesting idea. This is clearly one person's labor of love, made in GameMaker Studio, and as such is a bit uneven and in places obtuse (also very short). Cute, though.

Overall: I think my biggest complaint with most of the games in this bundle was, “there isn’t much to it.” Several games that seemed interesting are just…repetitive. Most of them were fun for long enough to justify the bundle, though.
Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017
4:31 pm
You Know What Else is Dangerous? BundleStars – Part Twenty: Playlist Bundle 3
Tap Heroes - Tap to attack enemies, and tap to heal your heroes as you go through numbered stages with endless enemies to fight, and periodic boss battles that give you blue gems necessary for the better upgrades. The balance is really kind of terrible--you can use blue gems for all sorts of neat stuff, but they're rare and there doesn't appear to be an IAP mechanism for buying them. You accumulate insane amounts of gold when the game is idle, but levelling your heroes like crazy just makes progressing easy, not actually faster. I strongly suspect the Android version of this is better and has received significantly more developer attention.

Loot Hero DX - I had actually played the Android version of this some time ago--it's a casual game in which you run back and forth, killing things by smashing into them, to make your stats go up so you can run farther and smash into bosses. You can get most of the trophies in less than an hour of play, and everything in less than two--I think this works better as a "five minutes at a time" mobile game.

Fly'N - Interestingly, this is a puzzle-platformer, not a flying game! An alien steals all the cool glowy stuff from your tree-like world and dumps trash on it, and you need to jump, float, sing and fly on magic currents to retrieve it. I wasn’t feeling it right now, but might go back.

World Defense : A Fragmented Reality Game - An interesting take on tower defense, using real-world maps and actual scenery. It's a bit buggy, though--attempting to bring up a map of my neighborhood caused it to crash, as did playing it for a few rounds at the Statue of Liberty. Also, it could really use the "speed up the waves" feature which most tower defense games seem to have. From the notes, this seems to be almost entirely the work of one guy, as a labor of love, and that explains a lot of the issues. Props for the concept, execution needs refining.

Victory: The Age of Racing - Deluxe Edition Content - A racing game with two major features that double as pitfalls: One is that it puts you in a driver's seat view, which is rare...and it's rare because it's less fun than seeing the outside of the car. The other is that it heavily emphasizes online races, to the point where it doesn't seem like there are any AI racers. I don't really like online competition and there was no one playing, anyway.

Egyptian Senet - Senet was apparently ubiquitous in ancient Egypt, in that everybody played it, but they never traded it to other areas and nobody actually seemed to enjoy it. (So just like Monopoly.) This automates a lot of the fiddly rules and alerts you to all of your available moves at any point, but the game is still boring and heavily dependent on randomness over strategy. I won't be teaching it to ARR.

No Turning Back: The Pixel Art Action-Adventure Roguelike - This is only a "roguelike" in that it has a randomly-generated dungeon and permadeath. The play is real-time, not turn based, there doesn't seem to be a food mechanic or randomized items (or even much of an inventory), and there isn't much to do. Also, your weapons seem to only be able to attack left and right despite a 360 degree freedom of movement, it's incredibly easy to die but enemies have tons of HP, and if there are special abilities, I couldn't get them to work. Now, this is supposedly still under development and I'd be curious to see an improved version, but I'm not holding my breath.

Space Drifters 2D - This...is a fancier (but only slightly) version of Asteroids for the Atari 2600. The graphics are slightly better (as in, line art instead of blocks), the controls are more complicated (requiring two sticks and four buttons), and there are additional game modes. But seriously, it's just Asteroids.

Sixtieth Kilometer - This is a visual novel with unpleasantly-strict quick time ("tap the key when it appears") events. And like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, wrong choices end in death. Translated from Russian and set in Russia, you play as a man caught on a train when a mysterious toxic pink mist falls. Apparently quite long and still ongoing, the story didn't grab me enough to deal with the system.

Uriel's Chasm 2 - ...WTF? This appears to be some nonsensical anime-esque biblical ramblings, followed by a shoot-em-up section, then some sort of top-down scenario where you put out fires and collect fruit? I don't know. The controls are terrible and nothing is explained. IDEK.

Overall: This had a couple of games that were fine casual games but would have been better on a touchscreen system; a half-decent puzzle-platformer, several works-in-progress with potential (but pretty much only that), and a couple of genuinely bad games. (Though, at least in the case of Senet, that's not the programmer's fault.) 
4:30 pm
The Flash (TV Series, Season 2)
The alternate title to this season (if not this show in general) is "The Poor Life Choices of Barry Allen". Because boy oh boy, he does impressively dumb things for a smart guy who can think at super-speed.

SPOILERS in my commentary.

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Overall: The fact that several major plot points in this season require Barry (and sometimes everyone else) to be an absolute chowderhead is maddening, but it’s still totally a fun show. I look forward to season 3, in which Barry Allen makes more terrible decisions and possibly breaks reality in doing so.
Friday, December 30th, 2016
7:23 pm
2016 Retrospective, 2017 Goals
2016 Retrospective:

Not much has changed, really?

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2017 Goals:

The specifics are edited from last year, but the generalities are the same.

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7:22 pm
2016 Year-In-Review: Video Games I Played
Though my definition of “completed” has varied to some extent (I included several games I didn’t finish but played significant amounts of; and left off games that I completed in less than 2 hours), I logged 62 games this year. 126 others were either tried and rejected and left off the list because they were too short. Also, I played through Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light and Suikoden independent of my backlog list (I’ve played them both before).

The first half of the year was dominated by 15 point-and-click/hidden-object puzzle games, and the second half by 15 KEMCO-published Android jrpgs. Other heavily represented genres were other kinds of puzzle games and platformer/metroidvania games.

Bravely Default was the game I spent the most time on, at 37 hours, but I also broke the 25-hour mark with Gemcraft: Chasing Shadows, Crash Drive, Shin Megami Tensai: Persona 3 Portable, and The Legend of Legacy.

(Okay, that’s not totally true: Cookie Jam, and to a lesser extent Juice Jam and Tap My Katamari probably ate the most hours, but I haven’t been logging them because they’re casual games playing in ten-minute bursts, often while I’m doing something else.)

Jethrien and I played some of Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 together, and have recently been on-and-off working our way through Child of Light, which I hope to finish and log in the next couple of weeks. ARR, on the other hand, was the driving force behind all those hours of Crash Drive and several other racing games, and has been introduced to a number of Atari and SNES classics. He’s not so great at them so far, it’s a work in progress.

I think I’ve found the shorter games more generally satisfying—getting an entire story in a couple of nights of play feels more worthwhile than having to spend several months on a 60-hour console rpg. That said, in 2017 I’m hoping to tackle a few of the longer games that have been on my backlog. I have a stack of new 3DS games I’m excited about, and plenty more point-and-click games and KEMCO jrpgs. I also have another 200 Steam titles (that I paid something like $50 total for in a dozen different bundles) to mine for worthwhile material.

By genre, the games that I would say, “This is genuinely good, you should try it if you like the genre,” are:
• JRPG: Undertale (PC), Bravely Default (3DS), Soul Historica (Android)
• Platformer/Metroidvania: Shantae and the Pirate's Curse (3DS), Another Metroid 2 Remake Project (AM2R) (PC)
• Tower Defense: GemCraft - Chasing Shadows (PC)
• Racing: Crash Drive 2 (PC)
• Shooter: Shooting Stars (Android/PC)
• Casual/Puzzle: You Must Build A Boat (Android), Hexcells Infinite (PC), Please Don't Touch Anything (Android/PC)
• Visual Novel/Story-Based: Her Story (PC), The Stanley Parable (PC), The Beginner's Guide (PC)
• Cross-Genre Action/RPG: Evoland 2 (PC)
7:21 pm
Easy (Netflix, Season 1)
A series of vignettes about “couples, life, sex and technology.” Less like a TV series and more like a short-story collection gleaned from attending a lot of cocktail parties.

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Overall: I suspect that the writer/director has a following large enough to get Netflix to hand him some money and say, “Do whatever you want.” And he did. While there were some things to appeal to me, I don’t think this was neatly as smart or as poignant as it thought it was.
Thursday, December 29th, 2016
5:25 pm
Movie Capsule Reviews
Zootopia - I think we can say with some certainty that the genesis of this movie was someone accidentally saying, “bunny cop movie” when they meant “buddy cop movie,” then deciding that sounded cool. This movie is far better than it particularly needed to be, and impressively smart.

Doctor Strange - I feel like the stand-alone/origin Marvel movies are getting awfully formulaic at this point, but I did still enjoy it. (Especially the supporting cast.) The director and visual artists clearly LOVED Inception, as the “folding city” gets taken to new heights here.

Attacking the Darkness - Christopher Guest-style mockumentary that supposedly documents the creation of the "Dark Dungeons" movie. (And made by the same Zombie Orpheus crew that did The Gamers, etc.) It's cringingly delightful? Watch Dark Dungeons, and if you enjoy that, then this is also likely to be worth your time.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - This was the best session of the Star Wars tabletop RPG I’ve ever watched. (And the closest a movie has ever come to recreating The Empire Strikes Back.) They did a nice job dealing with it being an interquel that we knew the ending of ahead of time. I didn’t know in advance that Grand Moff Tarkin was going to be a CGI character, but the muppet-like movement of his mouth made it very obvious to me.

Also, Mads Mikkelsen is having a really good year, isn’t he?
5:24 pm
2016 Year-In-Review: Books I Read
This year, I read 38 books, significantly more than last year’s 27 or the dozen-or-so in most preceding years. Emphasizing reading books rather than the internet, along with getting very few comics and new rpg books, meant that I was dedicating most of my reading time to prose.

By type: 16 Kindle books, 11 other ebooks, 11 physical books.

While speculative fiction was a heavily emphasized genre, there was also a bunch of modern drama and assorted movie-style books that Amazon gave me for free. I read nine anthologies/short story collections, three humorous memoirs, two non-fiction and two self-help books. I think the variety helped (especially reading “easy” books outside of my normal wheelhouse), and many of the short stories were read conveniently on my phone while ARR was playing nearby.

In terms of authors: Three Scalzi books, two L’Engles, one Pratchett, one Gaiman and one Carey. (Which my to-read list echoes for next year, actually.) Richard Roberts came recommended and I suspect I’ll read his remaining novels in the coming year. I’m also likely to hunt down more by Mary Robinette Kowal, Nalo Hopkinson, and/or Kelly Link.
Tuesday, December 27th, 2016
4:28 pm
Adventures of Mana
In 1991, SquareSoft released a Game Boy game called Final Fantasy Adventure, (Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden in Japan) that then spawned the entire Mana series of games. 25 years later, they released a beautiful remake of that game.

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Overall: While I appreciate the blast from the past, gaming has moved on in a bunch of ways since 1991 and things that were acceptable then are frustrating now (even knowing about them in advance). I enjoyed playing this, but I think the previous remake was actually more of what I want—if I wanted the original all over again with no new gameplay material, I’d pull out my old brick Game Boy and play it.
4:27 pm
Android Games Reviews: The Second KEMCO Humble Bundle #7 - Journey to Kreisia
After suddenly being summoned to an unknown world, a high schooler by the name of Yusis learns of his destiny to become the Savior and face off against the Overlord - a being who threatens the destruction of Kreisia.

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Overall: There's nothing here I haven't seen before from this developer. It's not their best; it's hardly their worst. Middle-of-the-pack, only recommended after a number of other KEMCO games.
Wednesday, December 14th, 2016
4:38 pm
SaGa Frontier
Despite owning a copy of this game since 2001-ish, I've never beaten it or actually made real headway into it. As at this point I've managed to play (and often enjoy) most other entries in the SaGa series, I decided to try to play enough of this to at least write up my thoughts.

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Overall: This game is an excellent example of the fact that no matter how much I admire the concept, I can't get past the execution. Ah, well.
Tuesday, December 13th, 2016
4:44 pm
Catherine (PS3)
Catherine has appeared. It's the killer! Do not die.

Vincent is having the worst week of his life, as his longtime girlfriend wants their relationship to get serious just as a mysterious new girl falls into his lap…and at the same time a nightmare curse stalks cheating men, killing them in their dreams. In his dreams and in reality, Vincent races to outrun his own terrible choices which have manifested as supernatural menace.

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Overall: I rather like the puzzle system and actual gameplay, except…Atlus. And the character development / visual novel sections have a lot of potential, except…Atlus. This game is for people who actively enjoy the insane parts of the Persona franchise and can tolerate more misogyny than usual.
4:42 pm
You Know What Else is Dangerous? BundleStars – Part Nineteen: Hidden Gems 2 Bundle
Stacks TNT - Apparently this game has ceased development and officially between removed from the Steam store--and whatever it downloads onto my PC, it doesn't run.

Notrium - Top-down survival/scavenging game with a heavy emphasis on inventory management. Also zombie hunting with a mouse-and-keyboard control scheme. Not my thing.

Fractal: Make Blooms Not War - An intriguing puzzle game, though I'm not sure about its staying power. (Mostly because I'm not very good at it--my brain just doesn't see the chains well.) You "push" hexes through a map and attempt to create 3x3 "blooms", and then chain-reactions that form additional blooms.

Militia - A cross between a strategic, chess-like board game and a puzzle game; you get certain types of simple units to move across a grid and can attack enemy pieces in certain ways. The difficulty is dynamic and you "rank up" as you win matches. Cute concept, but didn't win me for the long term.

stratO - A flight simulator game where you try to navigate a paper airplane through rings without crashing into buildings. At least, I think that's what everything was, because it's all very abstract and psychedelic.

Foosball: World Tour - Exactly what it says on the tin: Computer-simulated foosball. I actually found it remarkably playable, I'm just only good for a couple of games of foosball a year. (Most of my willingness to play foosball in college was because the table was in the tap room and so were many attractive women. The foosball table I owned post-college mostly got used as a drying rack.)

The Dwarf Run - "An old-fashioned roleplaying adventure." You play a team of four adventurers (two of them dwarves) who end up in a mysterious cave without any equipment. The 3D CGI models are PS1-painfully-ugly, but the controls are fine and pressing Tab highlights interactive objects, which saves on pixel-hunting. The combat has variable difficulty, which means the game's real challenge comes from collecting random items (adventure game style) and using them on each other in absurd ways. The dialogue is goofy but moderately entertaining.

Our Love Will Grow - Harvest Moon made with RPGMaker. It brought back pleasant memories of playing the SNES Harvest Moon game, just with a different set of quirks and events. I see no reason to play this over actually playing Harvest Moon, but it amused me for what it was.

Overall: While I'm not sure how much I'd call any of these "gems", but there was at least some costume jewelry in this bundle.
4:41 pm
You Know What Else is Dangerous? BundleStars – Part Eighteen: Tribes Bundle
3DRPG - Style-wise, this wants to be 3D Dot Game Heroes; but in function it's more of a pseudo-roguelike and relies on randomly generated environments, hunger mechanics, crafting and hunting systems, and grind-grind-grinding.

Caveman Craig - A clunky Lemmings-like sidescroller puzzle game, where you need to allocate resources to recruiting other cavemen so you can conquer the opposing tribe.

GravBlocks - A curious take on a match-3 puzzle game, somewhat similar to Wario's Woods in that you can only move blocks once they've landed. The gimmick is that matching "gravblocks" changes the stage's direction of gravity, which allows you to sort them in different directions. The controls aren't great, though, and the ability to switch gravity isn't available enough to make it a useful gimmick.

Snik - This...wasn't what I was hoping for at all. An action-puzzle game that involves trying to maneuver a ball past other balls via mouse clicks. It's very dependent on timing and I found it very, very hard.

Fasaria World Online - Back in the late '90s, there were some primitive online MMOs that you played via a browser and mostly just clicked to make numbers move around. This recreates that experience masterfully, with a zillion different stats and resources that don't seem to do anything, wildly unbalanced difficulty levels, and the main thrust of the game being hours of pointless grinding. Oh, and there's non-real-time interaction with other players, though it wasn't clear if there were any of them.

Hydraulic Empire - On one hand, this Tower Defense game allows you to level up your builder and towers over the course of the campaign, which I appreciate. (Pure puzzle tower defense doesn't do it for me at all.) On the other hand, the graphics are big and clunky, the gameplay didn't grab me, and the steampunk aesthetic isn’t so much my thing.

This bundle also included Exowar and Masked Shooters 2, which didn't even interest me enough to try. Anyone want the keys?

Overall: Nothing here really won me--honestly, I found most of it pretty lousy--which is unfortunate, because I'd had hopes for at least a couple of the titles. Oh, well. Still a fine use of $2.
Thursday, December 8th, 2016
4:51 pm
Android Games Reviews: The Second KEMCO Humble Bundle #6 - Alphadia 2
Two centuries after Energi mostly disappeared (in the ending of the first Alphadia), the mechanical revolution has taken place. Reunited childhood friends Leon and Milfy are working for the Guild, doing odd jobs and protecting the locals from monsters.

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Overall: If you enjoyed the first Alphadia, this is more of the same to a ridiculous degree. Honestly, though, it’s not great, and KEMCO has much stronger offerings.
Tuesday, December 6th, 2016
4:48 pm
Book Mini-Reviews
The Anti-Anxiety Toolkit by Melissa Tiers - A very straightforward collection of exercises to help deal with the “brainweasels” sort of anxiety, when it either doesn’t have a clear cause or it has a cause you can’t do anything about. I feel like it’s in the same vein as cognitive-behavioral therapy, though this is in bite-sized “tricks” rather than an overall plan of attack. I suspect you need to actually pick a few and practice them when you AREN’T having severe anxiety before they’ll do much, though. Many of them rely on a willingness to let the anxiety go, and like depression, when you’re in the throes of it, you don’t want to let the anxiety go.

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane - Setting: Camp for emotionally-disturbed teenagers. Characters: Assorted damaged teenagers, standard Breakfast Club references included. Observation 1: Grover is an asshole. Granted, he’s the sort of snarky, boundary-pushing asshole that we as a society have decided should be the male lead in teen romantic comedies, but he’s still an asshole and the fact he’s never called on it irritates me. Observation 2: Cassie is a justifiable, abused asshole; but it shouldn’t be Zander’s responsibility to “save” her. Observation 3: This book loves the classic YA “adults are useless” narrative, though I suppose a softened reading of that would be “adults are broken people too.” Observation 4: Nobody gets “fixed” so much as they go into remission, which is refreshingly realistic. Theory: The author was once a kid like this and at least some of the characters are based on real people. Conclusion: I don’t think I actually like “put a bunch of broken people together with incompetent supervision and they’ll fix each other” stories. It fits a certain anti-intellectual theme that pervades our society, writing off professionals and systemic help in favor of bootstrapping. This wasn’t a bad book, but left a bad taste in my mouth in retrospect.

Good Intentions by Elliott Kay - I lost track of where I heard about this, but it’s the story of a man who accidentally gets an angel and a succubus both bound to him. The thing is, it’s clearly a wish-fulfillment fantasy (as the number of sex scenes would indicate) and it goes on FAR too long with too little interpersonal conflict and too few jokes. As the wit was lacking and the story dragged, I only made it a third of the way through before giving up.

Dear Cthulhu Vol. 1: Have a Dark Day and Dear Cthulhu Vol. 2: Good Advice for Bad People by Patrick Thomas - Heavily influenced by the classic Dear Abby and Ann Landers columns, including bits about mailing her $4.95 for a pamphlet of advice. The second book actually gets stronger as it goes on, as he stops leaning on the Cthulhu responses as the entire joke and makes the people writing in progressively more terrible. This was sold to me as “bathroom reading”, and that’s accurate—reading a couple of columns at a time is amusing, but marathoning the books gets repetitive…just like reading the archives of ANY advice column.

Hidden Youth ed. Mikki Kendall & Chesya Burke - Definitely has the “anthology problem” of the stories being wildly uneven—a few are genuinely clever, but many are ho-hum paranormal stories (and historical fiction paranormal stories, at that) that happen to have minority/marginalized characters. I bought this (via Kickstarter) because [personal profile] ecmyers had a story in it, and his Chinese steampunk mech story didn’t disappoint. I was also amused by K.T. Katzmann’s golem story, “The Bread-Thing in the Basket” and Alec Austin’s “The Paper Sword.” Overall, though, I was unenthused.

And as a bonus graphic novel, Unmasked Seeking Same was one I picked up at Philcon, about superheroes attempting to have love lives. Amusing concept that I’d see elsewhere, very sitcom-esque, credit for diversity, enjoyable but forgettable.
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