Game review: Enter the Gungeon for PS4

Had I based my review off of the first two to three levels of Enter the Gungeon alone, it probably would have been glowing, with only a few complaints about the controls. To be sure, there is still a lot to praise. But I’ve since burned out on the game without completing it based on one simple problem: it’s incredibly stingy and gives no sense of accomplishment for beating the challenges it throws at me.

I want to get one of my biggest complaints out of the way first. I hate the control scheme because it’s needlessly painful on my hands. I know this could have been avoided had I been allowed to change the button layout, something I know I can do on the Steam version. But fuck me if I want to play on console with my nice big screen TV and comfy couch. Then I’m stuck playing with a control scheme that keeps pulling my thumb off the sticks and back again in a frantic motion that just hurts. This is bullshit. If I can change the buttons on the Steam version, why am I forced to play with a control scheme I don’t like on the console?

Because of how badly the controls hurt my hands, I had to play this in short spurts with lots of rest breaks in between, and I did so because there is a lot to like about this game. To start with, the story is wildly unique. In this mysterious bullet castle is a gun that can kill the past, and adventurers with old regrets come from all over the galaxy for a chance to undo their past mistakes. To do so, they must traverse five floors of bullet hell and assemble a bullet that can shoot through time itself. Sounds awesome, y’all. Continue reading


Book review: The Complex by Brian Keene

I admit, I got The Complex almost right after the ebook came out based on only one short part of the blurb. The book has a trans character in it, and given how extremely rare it is to see this, I had to know, does Brian Keene do such a character justice? For the most part, yes, he does. I’ll get back to that in a bit.

First, I should get the plot out of the way. People go crazy, get naked, and start killing their neighbors. Aaaand we’re done. G’night, y’all!

Heh, but no seriously, that’s the whole plot in a nutshell. There’s no explanation for why everyone goes nuts, which makes sense because the characters experiencing this have no idea what’s going on. Certainly, all of them speculate on what’s happening, but no theory is given weight by the story as it plays out. In a few ways, it reminds me of King’s story Cell, which is a good thing. Cell is one of my favorite horror stories in recent years, so seeing something with a similar theme definitely works for me.

This could very well be a by the numbers story if not for the extremely well done character development. The first part of the book is something of an introduction to the various neighbors living in the apartment complex, and regular readers of Keene will spot several references to his other books. Continue reading


A book update of sorts…

Over the last year and a half, my writing output has diminished greatly as I’ve suffered from more MS-related relapses and fatigue attacks. I’ve had to take a long hiatus from all writing and most editing to give my brain a chance to recover from the stress of last year, and that’s also meant reassessing the projects I have ongoing. I still feel confident that I can complete most, but there is one exception, and I’ve spent a long time debating what to do with the Mystical World Wars series.

When I first got started writing, it was nothing for me to crank out a book a month, and my plans with the series were to create a world where all the various tangents existed in the same time line. I had all of these mystical races crossing over from one book or the other, and the ultimate plan was to bring them all into a huge final conflict. This would have taken me close to fifty novels to do so, and I managed to publish twelve, with another four completed and awaiting final edits.

However, as my ability to write consistently has dwindled, I’ve worried more and more about leaving the few readers buying the books without closure. It’s not fair to them, and I feel like it’s better to remove those books from my vendors and focus on what I know I can finish. This is why, effective immediately, all twelve books have been taken off of the virtual shelves at Amazon, Kobo, Nook, and my Blog bookstore.

I am not giving up on writing or publishing. I’m just changing how I write to ensure that I don’t leave readers hanging. Unless a series is meant to be open-ended with no defined final book, I’ve been writing the whole series before publishing the first book. For instance, all the books in the Alice the Wolf series are done. I’ve even got cover art and a general release schedule for them. I plan to release them one per year so readers won’t be overwhelmed by too many releases all at once.

Beyond Alice’s books, I’ve got a pair of sequels for The Life and Death of a Sex Doll and a new trilogy to complete the Zombie Era series. After that, the future is a bit more hazy. I plan to put out new books in the Sandy Morrison and Tobe White series, and I’m working on two other projects that could work out to a trilogy and another multi-book series.

I want to close this update with an apology to the people who read any of the arcs from the Mystical World Wars. I feel like I’ve let y’all down by not being able to finish things properly. But it’s no longer possible for me to work the way I had been when I started a little over ten years ago, and if I tried, I’d only make myself worse. I suspect that in the process, the books would also suffer a decline in quality, and I’d rather pull the plug and divert my energies into shorter projects to ensure I never leave y’all hanging like this again.


Game review: Salt and Sanctuary for PS4

Salt and Sanctuary needed almost a full day of playing to work for me, as the first area really wasn’t being too kind to my eyes. I was also a little iffy on the story at first because “Oh, look, it’s another rescue the princess quest.” But it’s not, and the princess is actually a huge MacGuffin that leads to a much deeper story, one I really enjoyed all the way to the end.

Initially, though, I was struggling to move past an area very early in the game after the first boss, and I inadvertently ended up spending that first day in a cycle of grinding for XP. Once I got past that sticking point on the second day and into an area that was less visually blurry, my enjoyment of the game went up immensely.

I’m going to cover the game in a lot more detail, but first I want to tell a little story. After my review of Fallout 4, I ended up playing it another three times, each time increasing the difficulty until I was up to Survival mode and still beating the game. On Twitter and Facebook, I commented that if it was possible for me to win on the hardest modes like this, maybe I needed a knock to my ego by getting Dark Souls III when it comes out in April.

So then along comes some reviews for Salt and Sanctuary, all of them sporting the description “2D Dark Souls.” So I figured this would be a good training run before getting into the real deal. Continue reading


Game review: J-Stars Victory VS+ for PS Vita

Way back when I a wee teen, I had a friend who went to Dallas all the time, and he would pick up issues of Weekly Shonen Jump for me. Not the compiled individual comics, but the actual issues imported from Japan. They’re all black and white comics on really cheap paper, and most of the stories are broken up into frustratingly short blocks. But oh how I loved those comics, and I kept buying them for quite a while before I got too sick and too broke to afford them.

J-Stars Victory VS+ is thus a perfect game for me because it’s got so many characters I read during my misspent youth, plus many others that I’ve come to know through later compilations or their anime adaptations. It’s an extremely flimsy premise drawing all of these characters together, but then it’s a fighting game and plot is pretty much secondary to the reason for playing.

Having said that, for as much as I enjoyed the game I also had problems with several parts of it, not the least of which is how the adventure mode draggs on and on before getting to the end of the story.

Before I cover the problematic parts, I want to talk about the things I did like. The combat is good and usually easy to grasp regardless of which character I’m handed to play with, and each character has their own special moves that come from their respective series. The arenas these fights take place in are nice and varied with plenty of color and personality, and buildings and walls explode with satisfying force when I attack an enemy and send them flying. Continue reading


Book review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I want to begin this review with two disclaimers and a side comment before getting into the book itself. The first is a warning that this review will contain spoilers. I don’t think it’s so much of a big deal because some of what I want to talk about is so garishly signposted early on in the book that within the first few chapters, I set the book down and gave predictions of what was to come to my husband. Nothing I said was wrong, and there were absolutely no surprises or twists to this tale. But if you want to read this without knowing what it’s all about, I’d suggest you look elsewhere for impressions because to explain my feelings, I need to dig into the spoilery guts of this book.

The second disclaimer is that even if I talk about the story and its characters in a negative way, I really did enjoy the story. I’ve spent several nights staying up reading under the spell of “just one more chapter” until fatigue was making the letters go crawling over the pages in a distracting manner. But this isn’t a happy story, nor are the characters entirely likeable. The setting is dark, and the conclusion is grim. That doesn’t make it a bad story, unless you just need all your fiction to be cheerful with happily ever afters. I don’t, but I realize I need to say right at the start, no matter what else I say, this is a good book.

And finally, here’s my aside: my first Ishiguro book was The Buried Giant, and I read that because it was supposedly a huge departure from his previous works. Having now read a second story from him, I’m not feeling that complaint. So one is fantasy, and the other is sci-fi. Both are speculative fiction, and both end somewhat grimly. I’d say they both have his signature writing style, even if they take place in vastly different time periods. So if you liked Never Let Me Go, but hated The Buried Giant because it had a dragon in it, I’d say the fault is more with your very narrowly defined comfort zone and not with the writing of an extremely talented author. Continue reading


Game review: Level 22: Gary’s Misadventures for PS4

Level 22: Gary’s Misadventures is a “humorous stealth” (yes, both of those belong in quotes) game with some cute moments and several fun levels, but it’s also hindered by many dreadful levels caused by bad design. The premise is simple enough. Gary has partied too hard on his birthday, and waking up late the next day, he realizes he must sneak into work or risk being fired.

In this plot, Gary needs help from a master of slacking, so he calls Marty, who knows the company’s security and all the ways to exploit it. In return for helping Gary get to his desk, Marty asks Gary to find some of his prized toy collection, which was scattered all over the building after Marty got fired for destroying some office equipment.

Thus begins Gary’s ascent to Level 22, a trip that will take him up and down through the convoluted maze of his company, each floor starting and ending with a stairwell. Which, even being nice, is a perfect example of stupid video game logic. In every single real world building, the stairwell is a single continuous structure used primarily as a fire exit. Want to go to level 22 without being seen? Take the stairwell, because no one in their right mind is going to climb 22 flights of stairs when there’s a working elevator. But whatever, the building is set up by a masochist who hopes everyone dies in a fire. Let’s just run with that. Continue reading


Game review: Teslagrad for PS Vita

Hoo boy, this fuckin’ game…there’s a part of me that wants to say something pragmatic and objective, like “Teslagrad is not a bad game, just a bad game for me.” But that’s because I absolutely hated playing it from start to finish. I want to be objective and pragmatic because the graphics are so pretty and the story is told without dialogue. That’s a nifty trick in an age when most games want to spend five minutes in intro cut scenes before letting you play. But the game DEMANDS perfection with every single puzzle. I remember reading early reviews that said, “This isn’t very challenging,” and now I want to scream at those reviewers, “As compared to what? Demon Souls?!”

So, the game starts off with an older man taking a baby to a house before time passes forward, and then an invading army forces the grown child to escape into a tower designed by the electrical equivalent of Rube Goldberg. This is the point at which I have to ask, “Does anyone ever build a tower that will kill them for failing to navigate the trip to their office?” FUUUUCK NOOOO THEY DON’T! The argument can’t even be made that this tower was built to defend some mystical treasure from distant enemies, because as the story plays out, it’s clear the “electromancers” were wiped out by their own allies. As it is, the first item, the polarity gloves, are right inside the tower. That’s some super duper security, mang.

AND YET, this ancient tower also contains automated puppet shows covering the history of these two factions. I’m trying to picture who had time to build that, and WHY they fucking built it. Like, “AAAAAH, OUR ALLIES HAVE BETRAYED US AND THE TOWER BURNS! WE MUST SET UP A SERIES OF ELABORATE PUPPET THEATERS DETAILING OUR HISTORY IN CASE SOMEONE ELSE COMES ALONG AND DOESN’T DIE IN OUR HUNDRED BOOBY TRAPS OF HOT ELECTRICAL DEATH! Continue reading


Game review: Hitman Go for Win Phone

Hitman Go needed time to grow on me, and for the first two “boxes” I was pretty bored with it. But the game keeps adding new ideas and raising the challenge until it becomes a fun sort of puzzler that crosses chess with assassination.

Even at the start, each level is a visual treat, being designed to look like a board game with little plastic figures representing Agent 47, his marks, random guards, and even occasional bystanders. Each collection of levels is part of a box set, and given how each section is relatively small, I can almost see this game fitting into a real life box.

Given how pretty the designs are, it’s a shame that the game is so stingy about camera control. It is possible to nudge the camera a bit to get a slightly different angle or to zoom out, but that’s about it. This makes it harder to appreciate all the little details going on around the levels, which is a real shame when I wanted to look at some of the background antics. One airport level in particular had humorous depictions of baggage handlers using some…unorthodox packing methods. I wanted to zoom in on that, and it’s a bummer that I couldn’t. Continue reading


Book review: Imp Forsaken by Debra Dunbar

I didn’t enjoy Imp Forsaken as much as the previous books in the Imp series, which is not to say that I didn’t like it, or that it’s badly written. There are a few things that rubbed me the wrong way, but I also recognize that they couldn’t be avoided given the way the last book ended. This is the logical continuation of the story thus far, and there’s no way to avoid the problems I had with it.

First of all, the book is slow to start. As I said, this couldn’t be helped because of how badly injured Sam was at the end of the previous book. Even with several time jumps forward, the scenes given “screen time” drag on without much happening until the middle of the book. It can’t be helped. I get that, and I understand why the story had to go here. I just can’t say I got much out of it.

The other problem is that there’s a sudden shift of perspective to a previously unimportant bit character. This is something that really bugs me, but again, it can’t be helped. Sam isn’t able to follow the story in progress back on Earth, and neither Wyatt nor Gregory are in the right frame of mind to be doing all this investigative work. So in comes Gabriel to provide some information that would have been impossible to convey otherwise. Continue reading