Game review: Bloons TD 6 for Steam

Tower defense is a genre I don’t have any strong opinions on. I’ve played a few and liked them well enough, but not so much that I go out of my way to find new entries. I saw Bloons TD 6 was on sale on Steam stupidly cheap, and I vaguely recalled it had been released on Netflix. So I figured it would be good for a Versus series post.

I mostly focused on the PC version, for reasons that I’ll get into later, but let me start of by saying this is a mobile game, complete with microtransactions, paid for currency, and painful grinding baked in to encourage spending. As usual, I was able to ignore all of that to just focus on the game itself, but if you have trouble with spending too much in mobile games, this probably isn’t for you.

The story is easy enough to cover. Bloons (balloons) have invaded the land of monkeys! Gather your forces to repel the invasion!

Yep. You don’t get much simpler than that. Continue reading


Game review: Hades for Steam

Oh, this game, y’all. I am glad I got it on sale, at a steep discount, and before I get to the actual review (with spoilers, so this is your only warning), I need to offer you full disclosure. I have sunk eighty hours into Hades. In that time I have beaten every boss with every weapon available, except for the eponymous end boss. I’ve beaten him two times, once with the gauntlets, and once with the spear. I’ve unlocked every ability from the magic mirror in Zagreus’ room, and fully refurnished the house of Hades.

But I have not beaten Hades, because the grind finally soured me to the point that I would rather do anything else beside play this game. What kills me most is that this is Greek mythology, which has been my jam since I first started borrowing books of parables from the public library at nine. Not even my love of Greek mythology can see me through to the end.

Here’s the plot in a nutshell: Zagreus is the defiant son of Hades, who learns that his birth mother is alive and well on the mortal plane. With help from his adoptive mother, he makes plans to traverse Tatarus, Asphodel, Elyisum, and the labyrinths that divide the afterlife to the mortal world. Each room he clears reveals a new gift from the gods, who are eager to help him ascend to Olympus. If at first he can’t succeed, he can die, and die again. Continue reading


My anime watch list, volume the second

These last few months, Crunchyroll’s subscription has been worth every penny, and now that they have profiles available, I’ve successfully sold hubby on exploring the service to find shows that tickle his fancy. So what have he and I been watching?

Black Clover
In a world where everyone has a certain amount of magical skill, Asta is an orphan who can’t cast any magic. But on the day when everyone of a certain age summons their grimoires, Asta manages to find a special black book and summons an anti-magic sword, making him the most powerful force for equality the world has ever seen.

This is one of hubby’s selections, but I liked it enough that I’ve hung out to watch it even though the first major villain arc had me constantly lamenting, “I can’t wait for these guys to learn how wrong they are.” Someone better pick up that phone, because I called it a hundred episodes back. Continue reading


Game review: Dread Delusion for Steam

Dread Delusion was brought to my attention on BlueSky in the Discover tab by a fan announcing that it had come out of early access. They described it as Oblivion-like, but with PS One-styled graphics. I went to Steam to check out the trailer, and it intrigued enough that I bought it and downloaded it the same day.

Before I get into the nitty gritty bits, I would like to say that what I really appreciate about the game is that it does retro nostalgia right. Yes, the graphics are clunky and similar to the PS One era, but the controls and camera are designed with a far more modern sensibility. I never once suffered with to trying orient myself even in tightly walled areas. I never struggled with the controls, even during more frantic bouts of combat. (Well, with one short exception, but that comes later.) There’s two different versions of fast travel to make tracking and backtracking less tedious. This is a game that wants to tickle you with nostalgia, but knows that not everything from the past was all candy sprinkles and Pop Rocks.

Starting out on a tutorial island of sorts as a faceless and nameless prisoner, player creation amounts to mixing three historical backgrounds that determine starting stats. Choosing one will make a character better at lockpicking or bartering, while another might make them better with physical damage or magic spells. No matter what is chosen, the first weapon given is a rusty sword. If you want to cast spells, you have to hunt them down later. Continue reading


Yew kin dew eet!

Hey there, reader. It’s been a while since we just stopped to chat a bit about you. By the way, you’re looking great. Is that a new hairstyle? It’s nice. I’d offer you a cookie, but this web site is a strict no cookie zone. And before I get into talking about you, can I just point out that there are no auto-play videos trying to distract you with ads? There’s no flashing banners or attempts to monetize you, my dearest, most favoritest (totally a real word, shut up spell-check) person in the whole world. You come here to read me, and because of that, all of this lack of exploitation is because I respect you. No, it’s because I love you. Because you are special.

So, I want to talk to you about A.I. and you. By now, other artists have told you our side of things. Corporations are stealing their work and feeding it into machines to “train them.” You also have to have seen by now that what gets cranked out is pure shit. But the same corporations keep insisting that with enough time, all that crap will somehow become quality.

Set that aside. Continue reading


Game review: Islets for EGS

Metroidvanias are a hard sell for me, existing well outside of my preferred styles of game. The problem is mine, as I have little patience for hitting a literal wall and having to backtrack to find the new tool I need to make progress. Once I do have the needed upgrade, I struggle to remember where I was supposed to backtrack in order to use it.

Islets won me over with its whimsical animation style and combination of side scrolling platforming mixed with bullet hell aerial boss battles. But what kept me playing until the credits was its willingness to cater to my needs at every step of the journey. For instance, when I got lost, I could go to an NPC and pay a small fee to have my current goal marked on the map. Be it a new upgrade, a boss, or whatever I was struggling to find, having a little question mark on the map made it possible to avoid getting lost. There were other accessibility features, and I’ll cover those later.

Let’s get into the story first, which is about a floating island made up of several smaller islets that drifted together and created a perfect biome. A group of industrious critters decided to keep them held together with huge electromagnets, as the combined island was perfect for promoting biodiversity. Some unsavory varmints conspired to shut down the magnets, and the islets drifted apart, making each biome more barren and hostile as a result. Continue reading


Hey look, Fallout 4 got “upgraded!”

I had another review planned for this week, a positive one at that. But then I remembered that after the launch of the highly enjoyable Fallout on Amazon Prime, Bethesda promised an update to Fallout 4 with the bait, quote, “bug fixes.” That update arrived, and like a noob, I downloaded it hoping for the best.

Some of you might be new to my blog and don’t know that I don’t care much for Bethesda, but I also rather liked Fallout 4 because it was the most stable of the 3D Fallout games. (Okay, also because I like the music. I’ve actually played sometimes just to listen to Diamond City Radio a few hours before erasing my save file.) Granted, it always has been buggier than an ant farm, but it rarely crashed on my PS4 (RIP) or on my PC with the settings all locked to Medium.

So “bug fixes” called me back because I wondered, could I finally recruit Tina DeLuca to join me at Sanctuary Hills? Would I finally get Sanctuary to 100 percent happiness even if I recruited The Concord Five? Could I convince Marcy and Jun to work for more than one day on farming instead of watching them pound a hammer on a rusted metal wall?

But of course, nothing got fixed, and Bethesda went and Bethesda’d so hard that no one besides Mr. Matty is happy. Continue reading


The Big Con for EGS

Looking at the video trailer for The Big Con, I didn’t really feel like it would be a game for me. But then I read a longer description and decided to give a shot. The story goes that Ali is a small town girl living in a looonely wooorld. She took the midnight…whoops, wrong notes.

Right, Ali is a small town girl working with her single mother in a video store. She learns that the store is going to be taken over by loan sharks, and that her mother owes ninety-seven thousand dollars. So Ali hooks up with a complete stranger to try and gather enough money through pick-pocketing, shoplifting and fencing garbage in pawn shops. So, a high fantasy setting.

Before I get to the gameplay itself, I should mention that Ali has a hallucinatory friend named Rad Ghost, the kind of mascot D.A.R.E. would think up who frequently says stuff like “Thank you for not doing drugs!” Despite the hallucinations and questionable setup, I felt for Ali. As a teen I spent a lot of time hanging out in video stores and at the dollar theater, so like her, I’m something of a film nerd. Add in her desire to get out of her small town and do ANYTHING combined with her crush on a friend, and she really hit all my feels in the best way to make her an endearing protagonist. Continue reading


Pretty sure no bards created Tamriel

After having an abysmal time playing Diablo, I spent a while playing Skyrim through several “speed runs,” or the closest someone of my mediocre skill level will reach. I started with a sword and shield run to see how soon I could join the Dark Brotherhood and assassinate the emperor of Tamriel. (Level 15, pretty easy, actually.) Next, I did a two-handed hammer run to see how fast I could help the Stormcloaks end the civil war. (Level 17, a bit trickier because I needed a few more levels in heavy armor and alchemy to see me through to the end.) I then did a mage run to do the civil war from the empire’s side. (Level 19, as mages require a lot of skills that other classes can skip just to stay alive.) And then, finally, I just played through the main game, with detours to join the thieves’ guild, the bards’ college, the Dark Brotherhood, defeat an ancient god, and then help the Stormcloaks get rid of the empire. (Because if it’s good enough for Hammerfell, it’s good enough for the Nords!)

Before I get to the ranty griping, let me answer the question, “Zoe, why do you still play Skyrim if you were never a fan?” The answer is, I’m a fan of the mechanics. It’s like with Borderlands 2. I don’t like the story, but I love the looting, the shooting, and the creative paths of designing new builds for each character class.

The added twist with Skyrim is, if you want to get good at a skill, you need to keep doing that skill. You want to get better at picking locks? Buy some lockpicks and find some locks. Even better is that unlike Bethesda’s Fallout games, you can pick a lock with a high skill level requirement even if you’re an idiot. You found a master lock? Well with enough picks and patience, you can pick that lock, and you will get several levels for putting in the effort. You even gain experience by breaking picks. You can cheese lock pick leveling by buying up a bunch of picks and intentionally breaking them in a master lock.

And yeah, skill leveling doesn’t always make sense. Like, if you want to level up in heavy or light armor, you do so by getting your ass kicked. But in most cases, it’s a great system. Swing a sword to level up one or two-handed weapon skills. Shoot a bow to level up archery. Use a shield to raise blocking. Smith stuff to level up smithing. Cast spells to level up in magic. It’s a fantastic, brilliant idea, and I love it.

BUT. Continue reading


Why Diablo sucked

Not long ago, I watched a speedrun of Diablo on the YouTube archives of Awesome Games Done quick, and as the runner got into the lowest floors, I suddenly realized that I had never finished the game with any character. I saw it was only ten euros on Battle.Net, so I figured I would fire it back up to sort out why I stopped playing.

I could nitpick on all the game’s flaws. No, check that. I will do that anyway, but the sum of all its flaws can be condensed down to one damning statement: accounting isn’t fun.

Spending ten minutes in every session trying to sort out whether to call a financial loss on a run by casting a portal or lose twenty minutes walking back to town is not fun. Being financially penalized for wanting to hold onto items is not fun. Even when the game is almost starting to feel fun, here’s a room filled with thirty enemies who will deplete my carefully budgeted supply of potions while dropping no gold or items to sell back in town, and I’m right back to having no fun. Continue reading