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|Monday, October 17th, 2016|
|Welcome Back to Death
The theater company formerly known as the Attic Ensemble (mostly defunct at this point) does an annual murder mystery fundraiser at a local church. This is my fifth performance with them, which included two shows where I died, one show where Puel died, and one show where I murdered Jethrien. Shockingly, I both survived this one and wasn’t the murderer (much to the chagrin of half the audience—I got a lot of votes).
I played Ricky the Revealer, a wannabe blogger who showed up at this high school reunion/homecoming because he lost a bet to a reader. Notable accomplishments include taking a selfie with the corpse:
And carrying around my laptop with my blog on it as a prop. If you’d like to read the blog, I uploaded a pdf.
The Attic folks are already requesting that Mary write parts for Jethrien and ARR into the next show.
|Thursday, October 13th, 2016|
|Android Games Reviews: Ad-Supported KEMCO Games #2 - Antiquia Lost
A boy with a mysterious power meets a shapeshifting girl just as the royal families of the three major nations start vanishing. Representatives of the three nations will all need to come together to find out what truth of the past was lost, and how it’s returned to haunt them.( Collapse )
Overall: While it’s still a standard jrpg, the folks at KEMCO have clearly been learning and improving their games. The plot is fine, respectable; the systems are very nice and it’s fun to play. Recommended among this style of game.
|Monday, October 10th, 2016|
The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
- A Kindle First book that I appreciated as a random, fast read out of my usual wheelhouse. The movie genre this corresponds to is “Lifetime Channel,” as it features four different women at different stages of their lives, each coming to terms with their own and others’ secrets and perceived failures. The pacing plays out like a mystery crossed with a coming-of-age story (or perhaps four interwoven coming-of-different-ages stories).
I give big credit for having the most ridiculous realistic name I think I’ve ever seen in a book: One character is called “Jencey”, which I thought was just a pretentious white-girl name until it was pointed out that she was actually “Jennifer C.”—there had been a “Jen C.” and “Jen L.” in her elementary school, and the nickname stuck. (My father worked with a woman at CTY who everyone still calls “Lauren Bobstier”--pronounced like it’s French--because she was “Lauren, Bob’s TA.”)Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain by Richard Roberts
- Recommended to me by Bigscary, this is a ridiculous YA-superhero romp about a girl with super mad scientist powers who accidentally puts herself on the wrong side of the superhuman community. There are some plot holes and a few insane coincidences—even more so than the superhero-thick worldbuilding would allow—but overall it’s a fun little story. SCIENCE!
I think, actually, my biggest suspension of disbelief was that, in this age of helicopter parenting, not only do her parents let the 13-year-old protagonist roam around LA by herself, but they actually leave her home alone for several days while they go to a convention. And her mom’s entire power
is being an overplanning control freak!The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
- I think I’ve generally just become a Scalzi fan; I really do like his worldbuilding. Definitely read Old Man’s War
before you read this, because this brings you up to speed on that, but I think you’d lose a lot of the fun of that book if you’d been spoiled by this one first. He pays off everything he starts and foreshadows everything in the ending; it's a grand lesson in Chekov's gunmanship.Pump Six And Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi
- A collection of fascinating sci-fi worldbuilding with a lot of emphasis on body horror and environmental destruction. I read this in pieces on my phone, so had less opportunity to write down my thoughts about individual stories as I read them. It ranges from macabre to pitiful, but none of these are happy stories. Bacigalupi clearly follows the “humans are bastards” theory of spec-fi. There's also some very clear inspiration to some of them--two stories are set in a "Monsanto destroys the world" universe, another in a "California's drought destroys the world" setup. The former, incidentally, is a lovely introspection except that it posits that solar power doesn't exist--nothing happened to the sun, mind you, crops can grow just fine--but all energy is either plant or muscle-based, and that glaring scientific problem just threw me right out of the story. This book falls into the category of “interesting, but not necessarily enjoyable.”
|Humble Indie Bundle 17
I’ve had pretty good luck with Humble Bundles in general. Though to be entirely honest, I bought this one because I wanted to know what Octodad
- …This is Minesweeper. I mean, okay, the cells are hexes instead of squares, there’s some Sudoku-like variation in the later stages, each area is set rather than randomized, and the goddamn mouse buttons are flipped
, but it’s essentially the same game. I’ve wasted far too much time playing Minesweeper and doing Sudoku and Kakuro puzzles, so this was clearly up my alley.Hexcells Plus
- Effectively an expansion pack to the first game. Six more levels; three dozen more puzzles. These puzzles are larger and harder, and add more kukuro-esque elements and the ability to trace lines and mark off “completed” numbers. If the first game is a warm-up, this is the main event.Hexcells Infinite
- Another set of 36 puzzles. This time it adds both the ability to swap mouse buttons and an “infinite” mode that generates puzzles from random (or non-random) seeds. It starts with beginner-level puzzles but the difficulty escalates very quickly. This is a cross between another expansion pack and a more definitive version of the game.Super Time Force Ultra
- In the same vein as Replay - VHS is Not Dead
or several other puzzle-platformers, you can rewind each level and add in more characters / versions of yourself. Only this game is a shooter, so you have three characters with different weapons you need to get through each area with. Which means it has the parts I generally disliked about Replay and the parts I dislike about Trine
combined into one game. Not so much my thing.Expand
- A bizarrely-controlled puzzle game where your keys map to "in" and "out" on a rotating disk, rather than cardinal directions. I see what they were trying to do, but I found it intensely irritating.Galak-Z
- A love letter to the original Atari game Asteroids
with a plot, missions, and much more weapon variety. The controls are pretty decent--it tries to actually obey physics by giving you momentum--I'm just not very good at it. Also, they get huge credit for including both regenerating shields (so a single encounter doesn’t necessarily screw you for the entire level), and making touching the walls harmless (which is my problem with pretty much every other hard-to-control space sim ever).Lethal League
- This plays sort of like Smash Brothers, only instead of trying to hit the other players, you're trying to tag them with a ball that's bouncing around the arena. If you like multiplayer fighting games, I can see the appeal.Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
- Multiplayer shooter in which you must work together to restore love--or at least a generator powered by it--to its proper place in the galaxy. Credit to them for offering a competent pet to assist you in one-player mode. It's cute, but I think it really needs to be played co-op. Perhaps when ARR is a bit older and more capable on a controller it could be a family game.Nuclear Throne
- Top-down shooter where you fight through various wasteland areas and waves of enemies to try to reach the “nuclear throne”. Decent variety of weapons and powers, but not much else to it. Reminded me of Heroes of Loot
, but I liked that better.Regency Solitaire
- Do you like playing a zillion games of Solitaire with a pretense of story? Do you like simplistic Regency era drama? Then this is for you! (Note that it's not Klondike Solitaire; it's a variant more similar to Spit, and each area has a different layout and features like key-and-lock combos.) It seems simple, but I found it a pleasant little distraction--you can retry any given hand as much as you want, so it's not far off from playing a zillion games of Windows Solitaire, just a little more purposefully.The Beginner's Guide
- I'd call this a "horror" game, but it's entirely psychological--there are no jumpscares, nothing to fight, and no way to die; just a calm-voiced narrator explaining the history of a series of games and getting extremely
meta. It was fascinating.Octodad: Dadliest Catch
- "You wear a disguise to look like human guys, but you're not a man, you're an octodad." This game takes deliberately poor controls (not unlike Ampu-Tea) and brings the ridiculousness level up to eleven: You're an octopus disguised as a man, and you must do normal human activities while flopping all over the place and speaking only in blurbles. I was sold on this bundle by the title of this game, to be honest, and in terms of absurdity, I wasn’t disappointed.
Overall: This turned out to be an excuse to play variants of the default Windows casual games for a bunch of hours, though The Beginner's Guide
got me to add The Stanley Parable
to my wishlist.
|Thursday, September 29th, 2016|
|Android Games Reviews: Doom & Destiny
Four friends thought they were going to their GM’s house for a tabletop game of Doom & Destiny. Instead, they discover that their GM has vanished and they’ve been pulled into a fantasy pastiche world where they might be heroes (but probably aren’t) chosen by Destiny.( Collapse )
Overall: It’s middling. There’s potential here, as it’s a jrpg experience on par with most KEMCO games; but the dialogue could have used a better editor to make more of the jokes really work, and the skill system needed more honing.
|Monday, September 26th, 2016|
|Supergirl (TV series, Season 1)
Kara Zor-El was sent to Earth to look after her baby cousin Kal-El…but she got stuck in the Phantom Zone for 24 years and arrived when Kal-El was all grown up. A decade later, she’s out on her own and decides it’s her turn to be a hero.( Collapse )
Overall: While not as highly recommended as The Flash
, I thought this was a fun superhero show and I had a good time with it.
|Sunday, September 25th, 2016|
|Sick Day and picnic
On Wednesday afternoon, my throat started getting scratchy. I figured it was allergies--even though it was worse the next day, plenty of other people seemed to be having bad allergy days too and the pollen count was way up. I stumbled through the day and game night. By Friday morning, it was clear that I was not well. I called in sick and went back to bed...and slept until 12:30. Then flopped on the couch and watched Netflix until dinnertime. Yeah.
(Side note: We went to Miso Ramen
for dinner, and I found that their shoyu broth is much better than their miso broth. Amusingly.)
On Saturday, I still felt kinda lousy, but improved enough to not cancel my plans. So I met J and Cubby for lunch on the upper west side, and then met up with Jethrien and ARR to go to the meme picnic that Mith and Puel organized. This was an outgrowth from a lunch conversation Mith and I had months ago, about the various foods one could make to match memes. The party included a cake that was a lie, precious cinnamon roll ice cream (too pure), Georg's spiders (an outlier that should not have been counted), creepypasta salad, some breadsticks we stuffed in a bag, the Harlem Shake, some cheezeburger we haz, and my contribution, None Pizza with Left Beef.
This morning, I took the early shift with ARR, but then went back to bed for three hours. I'm still not 100%, but I'm definitely on the mend. And in retrospect, that was one of the nastier colds I can remember having in years.
|Monday, September 19th, 2016|
|Final Fantasy IV Alter Destiny
A fan game, made in RPG Maker, that painstakingly reproduces the visuals and events of Final Fantasy 4
. Well, mostly—the plot isn’t quite the same, and the gameplay has to approximate at points. ( Collapse )
Overall: I thought that FF4: Unprecedented Crisis
was a much better execution of a similar concept, but applaud the sheer amount of effort that went into this.
|Tuesday, September 13th, 2016|
|Android Games Reviews: Ad-Supported KEMCO Games #1 - Bonds of the Skies
The four elemental Grimoas created the world, but when three of them split off child-Grimoas, the Fire Grimoa made a grab for power. Now, the other Grimoas must band together with human Partners to revitalize the world’s faith in them and stop the Fire Grimoa’s plans to burn the world.( Collapse )
Overall: I wasn’t enthralled here, and I think there were a lot of factors to that. The increased emphasis on grinding versus other games; the simplistic “find all the elements” plot; the emphasis on status ailments that you need limited items to cure; and the mild irritation of the ads. If the game had otherwise be great, I’d have paid the $5 to remove the ads. I opted to stop playing instead.
|Humble PC and Android Bundle 14
Please Don't Touch Anything
- A relatively straightforward puzzle game in which you’re seated at a console with a big red button and asked not to touch anything. There are 25 different “endings” to find by touching everything. Some of the puzzles are maddeningly obtuse, but it’s not like you can lose this game.You Must Build A Boat
- A pure sequel to 10000000
with slightly more plot (you’re sailing from place to place, trying to recruit crew and build a larger boat) but the exact same mechanics (“run” as far as you can in the dungeon by matching tiles to defeat monsters and open chests). It has a nice, smooth difficulty curve and a bunch of extra variety versus 10000000, but it’s essentially the same game. Tile-matching makes numbers go up. Works for me!Knights of Pen & Paper +1 Edition
- This is less a real rpg and more a “numbers go up” casual game; the plot is fourth-wall-ignoring fluff (you can buy items for the room your players are in to enhance their battle prowess; and the GM and table are always visible). I give them credit for there being a decent amount of strategy to the battles (in terms of ailments / debuffs you can inflict and the roles the different classes can fill) even though you can choose to fight more, easier battles rather than fewer hard ones at almost any point in the game; and you can always grind as much as you want. It goes on a bit too long for its conceit: I suspect that the “+1 Edition” added too much bonus content without actually giving me a credit roll to delineate the postgame segments.Knights of Pen & Paper 2
- A true sequel in that it cleans up some mechanics, improves the dungeon-crawling segments and presents a new plot, but is otherwise unchanged. Upon reflection, I should probably have waited longer after playing the first game to play the sequel, as it’s so very similar it gets tiring. (Though if you were going to play one or the other, you can safely jump straight to this one.)Desktop Dungeons
- I found this very similar to DungeonUp
: To quote myself, “A pseudo-roguelike dungeon crawler with randomly generated (but persistent) puzzle-ish levels--and I think calling it a resource-management puzzle game wouldn't be inappropriate.” This has a different frame story (town-building) and more variety to classes and special abilities, but the fundamental strategic gameplay of “figure out what order to fight things in so you’re strong enough to beat the boss; and hope you’re lucky because otherwise you’ll die a lot” holds true. I think there was some vital strategy that I managed to miss, as I managed a number of runs where I could reach the boss, but with nothing else left on the screen still couldn’t beat them. Fun for a couple of hours, but ultimately I found this frustrating.Badland
- An interesting puzzle-platformer where there’s only one control: Tap to go up. It’s amazing how interesting you can make a game based just on that. The aesthetics are lovely and the gameplay falls into the “simple but interesting” category; but for whatever reason it didn’t grab me. I may revisit it.Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon
- Another spin on the puzzle-platformer concept: In this one, you’re a spider who must go from room to room in a manor house, spinning webs (with a limited number of strands) to catch all of the insects and get the most points doing so. Again, it’s pretty and it’s clever, but for whatever reason it didn’t really grab my attention.
I’m interested in trying Unmechanical
, but it won’t install on my tablet and I can’t get the Windows version to run.
This bundle also included SPACECOM
(which didn’t interest me at all), Asdivine Hearts
(which I reviewed under the KEMCO bundle header) and 10000000
(which is delightful in a simple way but I played it a year ago).
Overall: An assortment of delightful casual games. There’s nothing here you’ll play 40 hours of, but there are multiple fun time-wasters here and I’d recommend trying either game in both the 10000000
series and the Knights of Pen & Paper
|Thursday, September 8th, 2016|
|Voltron: Legendary Defender (Netflix, Season 1)
“Form feet and legs! Form arms and body! And I’ll form the head!”
- Keith, original series.“I’m a leg!”
- Hunk, new series.
America’s first real exposure to combining mecha anime has returned. No longer a bastardized recut several unrelated anime series, this is the cartoon we all imagined we were watching back in the 80s.( Collapse )
Overall: Much like the Thundercats
reboot, this is an excellent distillation of the nostalgia value of the original while carefully removing a lot of the things that were kinda terrible about it. I’m totally in for season 2.
|Wednesday, September 7th, 2016|
So, I’ve hit early September, which was the original estimate on Lose It!
for when I’d hit my 170 lbs goal. I’ve been averaging around 179 for a couple of weeks now, despite hitting my calorie goals. That’s frustrating, given how well I was tracking for the first three months of calorie-counting. Granted, I’ve still managed to lose 17 pounds off my high weight (13 from my pre-cruise average) and two belt notches, which succeeds in my goal of making my pants fit again. I’m in much better shape than I was before my big weight gain last fall. But I’d still rather have a margin for error, given I know my weight is going to creep back up over time.
I’ve made a decision that I’m not going to track this week at all; I’m just going to try to eat sensibly and keep to my normal routine. Next week I’ll weigh myself and see how that’s affected things. If I jump back up five pounds, I’ll resume calorie-counting. If I stay stable, I may just lay off dieting for a while and let my body get used to a new normal. If I somehow manage to lose more weight, I’ll be very confused.
Bodies are weird, yo.
|Tuesday, September 6th, 2016|
|Android Games Reviews: The Second KEMCO Humble Bundle #5 - Fanatic Earth
In a world where an alien bacteria known as the "Achratoth" nearly wiped out mankind, Xilleon City was created using a particle shield to protect many of the remaining inhabitants. Join forces with a brash amnesiac hero, a detective in the local police force, an android, and a young girl with a mysterious past as "defenders of justice" and take on Cyphatek, the largest corporation in Xilleon City, to expose their corruption!( Collapse )
Overall: I can’t really claim that this is particularly stand-out as a game, but it gets a lot of credit for having a plot I haven’t seen before. You’d think that there’d be more sci-fi buddy cop rpg stories, actually.
|Humble Eye Candy Bundle
I bought this bundle mostly because I’d been waiting for Evoland 2
to go on sale, and then I could buy it via bundle for $10 (half-price) and also get a stack of other games.Evoland 2
- A more refined, more story-driven (as opposed to gimmick-driven) game than the original Evoland
, it’s primarily a top-down action-rpg in the Zelda or Mana vein, with plenty of puzzles and fighting. But if you like genre changes, there’s also stealth sections, platforming sections, shoot-em-up sections (top-down and side-scroller), a fighting game section, a beat-em-up section, auto-scrolling platforming, Bomberman-pastiche, Fire Emblem-style tactical maps, and even a rhythm game segment. And the original conceit of the graphics changing as you travel through time remains just as amusing, with four major eras that each have their own style, and a puzzle dungeon that requires actively swapping between them. This game was really made for video games fans of a certain age (mine, thankfully) and level of experience—you need to be at least passable in all of the above genres to get through all of the required areas. (Though there are three difficulty levels, and on “easy” the abundance of save points makes most things less frustrating.) The plot is heavily inspired by Chrono Trigger
, but stands on its own very nicely with a mix of serious story and wacky parody…and then you need to piece together the fan theories to figure out everything that actually happened, because it’s all a closed time loop that the heroes are mostly at fault for.
SPOILER: ( Collapse )Shantae: Risky's Revenge - Director's Cut
- This is the second game in the Shantae
series; I played the third on the 3DS. The third game made very good use of the 3DS' extra screen by giving you a constantly-accessible map. I miss that. On the other hand, this game’s maps are designed in a pseudo-3D manner so you can go "in" or "out", and that's an interesting switch. Instead of pirate equipment, your special abilities in this game are transformations triggered by bellydancing. I found the difficulty curve a bit unpleasant: The first real boss requires an absurd 120 hits
to take out—what is that about? And then I got to the Battle Tower, and couldn’t get through it despite a dozen tries. It’s not as good as the sequel, but that makes me very excited for the fourth game, because the designers are obviously learning.
(The original game in the series was apparently a late-cycle Game Boy Color game. I pulled the rom and gave it a try...it's kinda lousy. It drags and the platforming mechanics are unpleasant. I'm impressed they managed to make a sequel.)Human Resource Machine
- This is a programming puzzle game from the makers of Little Inferno
, which means that you're playing a wage-slave using limited programming commands to move things from an inbox to an outbox, and outside the world is burning. I was reminded uncomfortably of Comp Sci 126 back in freshman year of college, but I suspect for anyone else with an analytical mind but relatively little programming experience this would be both fun and a decent tutorial. (Heck, I may actively push ARR into playing it if he shows an interest in programming or puzzle games in general.)Mini Metro
- A casual/puzzle game in which you try to design a subway system that doesn’t overcrowd passengers waiting at your stations. Each of the maps is based on the real map of a major city, though attempting to match the real thing probably won’t get you very far. Credit for being something unique and original; good for an hour or two.Mushroom 11
- An interesting take on a puzzle-platformer, as you control a green blob of fungus that you can erase parts of and have it immediately grow back elsewhere. The inability to jump (you instead have to either bounce or stretch upward creatively) makes it distinctly different from many games in the genre. A Boy and His Blob
- A remake/reimagining of the NES classic, in which you play a boy who has a pet alien blob, which can shapechange when you feed it various jellybeans. In this version, the graphics are really splendid and the jellybeans seem to be unlimited, which makes the game feel appropriately modern as a puzzle game that doesn't hate you. Unfortunately, the boy is still a one-hit-point-wonder with really lousy jumping abilities, and the delays of calling for the blob and waiting for it to eat the damn jellybeans mean it's not particularly fun for me. (I had similar problems with the original.)
The bundle also included the arena-shooter / local multiplayer game TowerFall Ascension
, but I wasn’t particularly interested in playing that.
Overall: This bundle was basically my excuse to purchase Evoland 2
, but definitely earned its keep with the rest of the collection.
|iZombie (TV Series, Season 1)
When Liv Moore is turned into a zombie, she opts to take a job at the local morgue to deal with her hunger for brains. As those brains give her flashes of former owner’s memories, she uses her talents to help hunt down murder victims.( Collapse )
Overall: It bears little resemblance to the original comic, but I enjoyed it regardless. I worry it may outgrow its premise, but I’m definitely willing to give season two a shot when it becomes available to me.
|Friday, September 2nd, 2016|
|Another Metroid 2 Remake: Project AM2R
To ensure that the Space Pirates can never obtain any more Metroids, the Galactic Federation sends several teams to the Metroid's home planet, SR388, to destroy them once and for all. However, when each of the teams disappears, the Galactic Federation contracts Samus Aran to finish the mission.( Collapse )
Overall: This is really, really well done. Basically, if you like 2D Metroid games, this is totally worth your time.
|Tuesday, August 30th, 2016|
We are registered to attend PhilCon
on November 18-20, 2016. We'll primarily be there on Saturday, 11/19.
I received an email claiming that I-CON
would be returning March 17-19th, 2017. I'm not holding my breath, but odds are good we'll attend if it happens.
The Book of Mormon
- It’s interesting in that when Jethrien and I see a play that’s terrible, we can pick it apart for hours, but this one left us without much to say. It was fun, it had some clever bits, it is, as I noted at intermission, “exactly what I should have expected.” It’s thought-provoking only if you’ve never had your ideas about religion or your white privilege ever challenged before, and it does both in a very soft way. Despite the toilet humor and cursing, this is as family-friendly as it gets—they want to get middle America to think about what religion means without scaring them, and that succeeds wildly. (Heck, the Mormons themselves apparently ran ads in the programs for a while.) I’m glad I saw it, I had fun; but I see no reason to buy the album and I’ll probably forget most of the details within a month.The Tomorrow People (2014 TV Series)
- It’s interesting to watch this following Sense8
, because it’s a very similar premise (people with telepathic superpowers are hidden among normal humanity, watch these characters discover that they aren’t normal), but where Sense8 reveled in breaking episodic TV tropes, this plays them entirely by the book. White boy “chosen one” with daddy issues turns out to be more powerful than everybody else and saves them all, but decides to try working for the villains to hunt down the truth about his missing father. I made it two episodes before deciding that, although I thought the overall concept was cool, I didn’t care about the characters or the actual events.The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey
- While this is arguably a “thriller”, I’d really put it more in the thoughtful sci-fi category. We get a variety of viewpoints about a post-apocalyptic world and the people who live in it, most notably that of the brilliant-but-weirdly-sheltered Melanie. (It’s a zombie story, and I’m frankly sick of zombie stories, but it’s a wonderful take on the genre.) I devoured it in two days; and I totally recommend it.
|Wednesday, August 24th, 2016|
|Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
David Sedaris has lived an interesting life. And by “interesting” we mean “not quite a garbage fire, but close.” This is a collection of his writing about various events in his life.( Collapse )
Overall: Not every one of these worked for me, but the ones that did really did. Are his other books also about drug-addled misadventures and terrible mistranslations? Because I’d love to read those.
|Android Games Reviews: The Second KEMCO Humble Bundle #4 - Revenant Saga
All around the world, revenants--demons inhabiting human corpses—are causing mayhem. Albert’s parents died of a plague; and then his best friend’s parents caught the plague as well. The mysterious scientist Dr. Moreau claims that he has a cure, if Albert will volunteer for his experiments. Unfortunately, the plague is a front and Dr. Moreau was actually creating the revenants the whole time. When Albert wakes up with a demon named Magnus in his soul, he decides try using his newfound powers for good.( Collapse )
Overall: For all my complaints, I rather liked this one. It didn't outstay its welcome; it tried a bunch of inventive things and some of them worked; and I had a lot of fun snapping it in half.