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

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Thursday, February 16th, 2017
4:44 pm
The Amber Throne (PC)
After awakening from her coffin, Arra recalls little but the last words spoken by her father, “Destroy the Amber Throne.” Looking into the sky, she finds what was once his magnificent castle is now floating far above the world below. Arra must find a way to reach the castle before others catch wind of it, lest the powerful Amber Throne fall into the wrong hands.

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Overall: I was very impressed by this; it’s a solid reminder that you can do amazing things in RPGMaker even if most people don’t. Recommended to jrpg fans.
Monday, February 13th, 2017
5:35 pm
You Know What Else is Dangerous? BundleStars – Part Twenty-Three: Wrath Bundle
Spectrubes - Pixel-art (practically ASCII-art) mazes that you need to maneuver multiple blocks through--those block move mirror-wise to each other, of course, and that's the rub.

Moustache Mountain - A very short platformer game that's intended for you to speedrun. You have three lives and there are lots of ways to instantly become chunky salsa. If you don't die, the game can be beaten in just a couple of minutes...it's the dying a lot trying to get there that'll get you. If you're into speedrunning platformers, you might be amused by this.

ANKI - Very simple puzzle platformer with no plot beyond "grab all the crystals and don't die." Feels very amateurish, honestly.

Big Journey to Home - A puzzle game with a roguelike style--top-down rooms and turn-based movement, but with no inventory or levels, just one-use power-ups that you need to clear each (distinct) room. Doesn't do it for me.

Silver Knight - An Early Access top-view action/adventure game, where early pixelated screen-sized room is a gauntlet of enemies and a couple of hits kills you dead. I can check back on this at some point when it's actually a viable game.

Dungeon Journey - A pseudo-puzzle rpg in which you explore the dungeon by uncovering tiles in a Minesweeper-like style. If you hit a monster, that locks the tiles next to it until you defeat it (though in some cases, the monsters don't act if you ignore them, so you can heal or escape at your leisure). It feels like it should be very strategic, but I couldn't really glean any useful strategies.

Rock 'N' Roll Defense - This is pretty fun, actually. It's standard tower defense in a bunch of ways, but the gimmick is that you're setting up speakers to stop rabid fans from rushing the stage. I got tired of it after a while (and I've played Tower Defense games with better controls and more overall sophistication), but it was entertaining.

Alien Attack in Space - An Asteroids-style space shooter, in both graphical and play style. Everything is monochromatic pixels, you can rotate and shoot in 360 degrees but your motion has inertia and the screen wraps. This is good for ten minutes of entertainment, tops.

Warriors' Wrath - You play a warrior in a land full of monsters. From your home base, you need to go out and beat up lots of these monsters, usually for quests. You can then use gathered/won materials to upgrade your equipment, and go out wandering to do it again. If there's more plot than that, I didn't see it. It feels thrown together, as the background and sprite art styles don't mesh at all, the controls are wonky, and the menus are confusing. I'm guessing it was somebody's first game.

Overall: This was a bundle of cheaply made, often half-finished games with okay concepts and lousy execution. Rock 'N' Roll Defense was moderately amusing, probably my favorite of the lot; and Dungeon Journey has some potential as a casual rpg; but overall I wouldn't call anything a big winner. I got about 4 hours of gameplay from this bundle, all told. 
5:34 pm
You Know What Else is Dangerous? BundleStars – Part Twenty-Two: Puzzle Mega Bundle
I feel like writing intros to these bundles is kinda silly at this point. I buy a lot of them (to the point where my Steam account has over 500 games attached to it) because I’m pretty much guaranteed a couple of hours of entertainment for my two bucks. Even if most of the games in a bundle are terrible or just don’t really grab me, I still stumble upon things that turn out entertaining that I wouldn’t have expected.

Weather Lord: Following the Princess Collector's Edition - This is the same sort of resource-gathering/management game that Legends of Atlantis: Exodus was. Each level is a puzzle of what order to gather things in. I make not claims that it’s a work of great art or even a particularly taxing game, but it’s a cute little casual time-waster.

Prehistoric Tales - This is a town-building game similar to the "Tap Zoo" games and various clones you find on mobile devices, except it's self-contained without time-outs or IAP. Which means that you can smoothly complete all of the assigned tasks and build up your town without having to wait for things to recharge. You also need to build up an army to defend your territory, but there's no time pressure, and if you're defeated, you just build up the money and buy a new army to try again. Three hours of casual gaming, generally a pleasant experience.

Crab Cakes Rescue - A gimmicky puzzle platformer that revolves around the fact that you're a crab: Every time you die, you leave your shell behind (which can be used as a platform or blockage) and become slightly smaller. Some levels revolve around leaving shells in the right places; others in being the right size to get places. I thought the concept was cute but got old fast, and I found the crab's hitbox to be irritatingly large, especially given how fast some of the instant-death boxes move.

Miko Mole - Float, dodge, bore and push rocks to help Miko Mole collect all the gems in this stage-based action/puzzle game. Each set of stages adds an additional hiccup--the ability to pick up rocks, the ability to set dynamite charges, etc. Cute concept, got old quickly.

Energy Cycle Collector's Edition - You know those puzzles where you press one button and everything in a line with it changes, and you need to make the entire puzzle match? This is an entire game full of those, just with fancy graphics. Meh?

It's Spring Again Collector's Edition - This doesn't actually qualify as a "game" so much as a somewhat interactive movie that a two-year-old might have fun with if it were on a touchscreen. Tap everything to change the seasons; repeat.

Square's Route - You are a cube (not a square, technically) and need to flip your way across various mazes, squashing evil plants and collecting gems. Each stage has a set number of moves you're aiming for to be "perfect" and to pass.

Puzzles Under The Hill - Pamela Possum goes for a walk through the Shire and finds lots of increasingly-complicated jigsaw puzzles on her way. The number of pieces steadily grows as you play, but the jigsaw outline is always given and the pieces don't rotate, so it's significantly easier than a comparable real jigsaw puzzle. If you want to do a LOT of small jigsaw puzzles, this is your game.

Pepe Porcupine - Pepe is the night worker at the Temple of the Pushable Crate, and as such, must push all the crates to where they need to go. I generally like block-pushing puzzles, but I found the controls odd (Pepe tends to "stick" after each move, which makes it hard to get anywhere quickly) and the rewards more insubstantial than most (no points/star count, no achievements, no plot).

Ferrum's Secrets: Where Is Grandpa? - A point-and-click adventure game, made in Unity; it looks like it should be an FPS but it's a setpiece game with clunky puzzles. I found it more obtuse than most games of this type, likely because the graphics are lousy and the interface isn't great either, so hidden object puzzles become guessing games. There are far more pleasant games in this genre to play.

Ludo Supremo - Another case of an excellent implementation of a terrible board game: The graphics are lovely, the gameplay is fast and smooth, the multiplayer is well-implemented...and the game is a heavily randomness-based dice-rolling-fest. There's some strategy you can work up with four players over which pieces you move and when, but there's so much luck involved the game just gets interminable. If I want that experience, I’ll play a physical board game with my son.

Snail Bob 2: Tiny Troubles - Bob is a snail, and he's not very bright, as his only movement options are go, stop and turn around. You need to maneuver him to the exit of each level despite this. This game has an interesting quirk that the stars and puzzle pieces in each level aren't at all connected to what you make Bob do--they're a hidden-object game-within-the-game, and you need to click them with your mouse before you finish the level with Bob. I found this surprisingly amusing, despite the puzzles ranging from “extremely easy” to “easy”.

Quell Collection - So, you know the sliding-ice puzzles that tend to infest 2D Zelda games and jrpgs? This is a collection of just those. (Or, more specifically, three such collections.) I played most of the first one, and I'm fairly sure I'll play the others at a later point.

Also in this collection was Mahjong Deluxe 3, but I'm not terribly interested in learning to play Mahjong.

Overall: This was, as advertised, a bundle full of puzzle games, most of which were briefly entertaining and might, if you were really into that sort of puzzle, be good for a few hours. Weather Lord, Prehistoric Tales and the Quell Collection stood out as those for me, though your mileage may vary. 10+ hours of entertainment for $2, no complaints.
Wednesday, February 8th, 2017
4:44 pm
Child of Light (PS3)
Child, tuck yourself in bed
And let me tell a story
Of Lemuria, a long lost kingdom
And a girl born for glory.

An action-jrpg starring a girl named Aurora in a mystical fairytale land, who learns the true meaning of queenship by making lots of friends and hitting things with a sword.

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Overall: We had fun playing this, and it’s very pretty, but I don’t think I’ll be looking up story-based sequels or fanfiction any time soon. It’s very good from a gameplay perspective, but the writing falls flat.
Monday, February 6th, 2017
4:33 pm
Sherlock (TV Series, Series 1)
In modern-day London, a doctor suffering from PTSD meets a brilliant, exasperating, sociopathic consulting detective. They move in together and have homoerotic tension as they fight crime.

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Overall: There’s some fun to be had here, and I can see why it’s popular, but as plenty of others have noted, it also has serious problems. That, and asshole Holmes gets old quickly. I feel okay stopping here: I’ve seen what the fuss is about, but now I’m done.
Wednesday, January 25th, 2017
4:42 pm
Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc. (TV Series, Season 1)
“And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids and your dog!”

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Overall: This is fun and very clever…and now I need to watch Season 2 to learn the answers to all the ongoing mysteries. Never thought I’d say that about Scooby-Doo, let me tell you!
Monday, January 23rd, 2017
1:56 pm
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call (3DS)
Cosmos versus Chaos, need heroes from the various Final Fantasy games to gather Rhythmia to save the realms, blah blah blah…rhythm games to Final Fantasy music, lots of variety, go wild.

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Overall: There’s no need for the original game when you can play this instead. If you like FF music and rhythm games in general, here you go.
Friday, January 20th, 2017
5:10 pm
The OA (Netflix, Season 1)
A mysterious woman with mysterious superpowers (…maybe) returns from a seven-year disappearance, and recruits a bunch of troubled teenagers (and one burnt-out teacher) for a spiritual journey.

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Overall: This show clearly intends from the start to be a mindscrew, but I think it tries too hard in some places and just plain falls flat in others. Fun to theorize about because it’s filled with “clues”, but ultimately not nearly as deep as it wants to be.
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.
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