Game review: Grow Home for Steam

Fair warning that there will be higher than average swearing in this week’s review. That’s because I didn’t play Grow Home so much as I endured as much of it as I could stand before throwing my aching hands up and declaring “fuck this.”  Part of this physical agony could be blamed on my first controller choice, which has triggers with a higher amount of tension than the standard PC gamepad. It’s great for shooters, helping me avoid accidental misfired shots. But here, the constant back and forth of “left shoulder, right shoulder” left me ending sessions with massive hand cramps.

But even setting that aside, this is the kind of half baked formula that could be good with more effort, and instead it got released as good enough in a damn near broken state. It fails to explain some of its most important mechanics, botches control schemes for both gamepad and mouse and keyboard gamers, and adds a list of busy work to drag out what is already a tiring slog.

I got to the point of the game where I had grown the central plant up to the little robot’s (BUD) mothership. (MOM) I collected a star seed and delivered it where I was instructed. Credits rolled, and the game was done, yes? FUCK NO. The game said, “Go fetch eight more seeds for us. Do you want to?” I selected NO, and the game went, “Thank you for your opinion. Now go get them seeds, biyatch.”

It was then that I said, “No. And not just no, but fuck no, and Grow Fuck yourself.” Continue reading

Game review: Unit 13 for PS Vita

Readers, I come to you a broken and defeated reviewer. In the last two weeks, I have tried and bounced from five games. Some, like Pillars of Eternity and Kao the Kangaroo, I knew were going to be iffy at the start. But then there was Party Hard 2, a game I wanted to love, until they kept tossing in new ingredients I never asked for. (Why was “Kill everyone” dubiously upgraded to “Follow a boring checklist” anyway?)

Running out of options, I decided to go back and play something I started ages ago, but never reviewed, Unit 13. Back when I first got my PS Vita, I bought the digital version of the game, only to discover that any attempt to play it in English caused it to revert to French. At the time, my Italian wasn’t strong enough for me to play that version, so I ended up getting a refund.

But it always stuck with me for reasons I couldn’t put into words. The simple premise for a third person shooter, a mercenary team taking out terrorists, had just enough meat on it to carry forward a set of missions of increasing difficulty within a limited number of locations. It’s kind of like if Counter-Strike had a single player version. Continue reading

Book review: The Forest Demands Its Due by Kosoko Jackson

Before I get into the proper review, I want to mention that I just joined The Storygraph, which is a new alternative to Goodreads. If you are worried about losing all of your collected ratings and reviews, you can export your stuff from Goodreads, and then import it to The Storygraph. (Which does take a while, but I can confirm it got both my ratings and reviews over.) Anyway, if you want to check out my profile click here. And if you’re already a member and want to add me as a friend, please do. I don’t yet know anyone over there, and it’s kinda lonely. (‘;_;)

With that out of the way, you may notice that this is my first book review of the year, and I hope to do more of these in 2024. One because I’ve missed reviewing books, and two because most of the games I’m playing lately need a lot more than a week to get through. (And I was serious about playing Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands again. In fact I’m playing two builds on alternating days, it’s that good. But I digress.) Don’t call it a resolution, more like a flickering flame of hope. I can say that it would be a hope easier to keep alight if all the books I tried were as good as The Forest Demands Its Due.

I will confess though, that for someone who has often lamented not judging books by their cover, the vividly, morbidly gorgeous cover was definitely what caught my eye and convinced me to go to Amazon to read the blurb. Everything about it, from the creepy scrawled font to the spooky forest background and deer skull with majestic antlers spoke to me, and it said, “Zoe, this is a book for you.”

And I said, “Okay!” Continue reading

Game review: Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands for Steam

When Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands got some meh reviews from folks I followed, I put it lower on my priority list, but not on the do not buy list. This is because the same folks gave Borderlands 3 a meh, and while I felt it could have wrapped up the plot faster, it was altogether a stronger story than the first two entries. I also really liked Tiny Tiny’s first BnB campaign when I played it with hubby, and I think that flavored my expectations going into it. So here’s Tiny Tina with another mega-session of Bunkers and Baddasses, offering stronger writing and a far shorter playtime than the planet spanning flagship.

Did it work? I’ll put it this way: I only beat the main game after intentionally holding off on the final boss to play a whole bunch of side quests. I’d already hit the level cap when I got there, but I was enjoying the side quests stories so much that I just wanted to see a few more before reaching the ending. And then not long after reaching the end, I started a new character so I could experiment with a different build.

Far from being a meh game, this might be closest to the perfect looter shooter for me. It’s not too long, the writing is cute and full of puns and dad jokes that make me smile even when they can’t quite get a laugh. (There’s also some pop culture and meme references so old they fart dust.) Buuuuuut, there was an early joke so funny that Hubby got mad at me for laughing too loud. So what I’m saying is, this really worked for me…most of the time.
Continue reading

Game review: Cursed To Golf for EGS

Cursed to Golf is one of those games where many folks know right away if they’re going to love it or hate it just by describing it in genre terms. It’s a rogue-like side scrolling platform golf game, and any of these terms could be a deal maker or breaker for you. For me, the one that’s a sticking point is rogue-like, as opposed to rogue-lite. The difference is, every new run, the whole world is reset, and nothing carries over.

But let me set that aside and talk about what makes this a unique experience. After a tutorial explains how an almost legendary golfer end up in Golf Purgatory, players are tasked with battling eighteen holes of side scrolling golf to win a shot at returning to their body. In their arsenal are a driver, an iron, and a wedge. (I was annoyed by the lack of a putter until I realized the wedge can do the job by applying really low power to swings.) One button press activates a power meter. Pressing it again activates the angle selection. If you don’t like the look of a swing, it’s possible to back out of the swing, either to select a different club, or just to adjust the power level of the swing.

Each level starts with five swings as “par,” and falling to zero mean losing and returning to the clubhouse to start over. However, within levels are statues that can be broken to unlock more swings. Gold statues grant five swings, and silver statues give two. So really, even if the so-called par is five, most levels end with swing counts of ten to fifteen, and some go as high as twenty, and they’re still considered par. Riiiiiight. Continue reading

Tabasco: the definitive review

It’s fair to say that I’ve been a fan of hot sauces since childhood, and that Tabasco sauce has been a vital kitchen component almost from the time I moved out to live on my own. In recent years, the number of sauces they make has expanded, but whether that happened fast or slow is a guess for me because all I understand of their development is mostly down to what I can find locally here in Italy. So first we got green jalapeño Tabasco, followed by chipotle, habanero and then by sriracha.

But there is one version that I learned about online, scorpion pepper sauce, which was first just a limited edition version. I told myself I wouldn’t get to try that, but then I found a collection of all the sauces together, and scorpion was in the line-up. All in all, it was five bottles for a very reasonable price of twenty-five euros.

I originally imagined doing a longer review on this topic, making notes for each sauce using spoons, pizza, chicken nuggets, and chicken wings. Then again, I also imagined doing all of this in one sitting. But just doing the spoon ladder proved that it would be better to group all the impressions by sauce type, and also to spread out the sampling time by several days to avoid spice blow-out corrupting my results the farther into the test I got. Continue reading

2023 in review

The last day of the year, and what a year, right? Globally, so much bad stuff is happening that it might seem impossible to look for a brighter side, much less to find one. Locally, there’s still continuing food price inflation, higher energy bills, Covid quarantines uncomfortably close to home, (measured in literal meters, so I’m not exaggerating) and mysterious illnesses for me and my hubby. (Mine going back decades, which was previously diagnosed as MS, but now the doctors aren’t so sure. Oh, fun side note, one of my symptoms is losing my sense of smell for brief spans, so now every time it happens, I have to ask, “Is it the usual shenanigans, or is it Covid?”)

But personally, this is the year when I got back my drive to create, and the urge to explore. For a few years now, I haven’t really felt much desire to listen to new music, or to read much from comics or books. I think I was just overwhelmed by all the crappy things happening here and abroad, but also, I had started feeling like I’d hit a rut and had nothing new to offer.

It was close to the start of the year that I decided to get my head back in the games, committing to publish at least one review a week. When that wasn’t possible, I decided to try and make filler just so I wouldn’t get back in the rut. Continue reading

My top 5 games of 2023

Well, look at the time! Another year has passed, and I have to say, compared to the years before this one, it didn’t suck nearly as bad. Sure, it still had its share of downs to equal the ups, but looking back, I think this is the year I could say, “Yeah, I’d do that again if I could.” It was a combination of good food, good company, and good games.

I know this is new for me, as I’ve never been much for recapping what I played, but I decided this year that I want to give a spotlight to the games I think went beyond good and sailed into great, taking up so much of my time, but in a good way.

So join me after the cut as I look at my top 5 games of the year. (In order of lowest to highest ranking.) Continue reading

Game review: Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion for EGS

I originally got Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (Hereafter shortened to Turnip Boy) on the Google play store because it sounded like everything I wanted in a mobile game. But it turned out that I was too much of a klutz to complete it using touch controls, so I wasn’t able to finish it, thus I could never review it, even though I liked what I played.

Fast forward a few months later, and I saw Turnip Boy on Epic Game Store, and I decided that even though I had to buy it again, I liked it enough on my phone that I wanted to see how it ends. As it turns out, I liked Turnip Boy enough that I don’t even mind buying it twice.

I think it helps that despite being a Metroidvania, one of the genres I’m not keen on, it does manage to make the formula work for me because the game isn’t that big. I get a new item, and it’s close enough to me hitting a roadblock in another area that I think, Oh, that’s right, I needed this to get into that other area. Continue reading

Versus series: Diablo Immortal VS Diablo IV

This installment of the versus series became inevitable pretty much right after I did the Diablo IV server slam. But that little weekend-thin slice wasn’t enough to build a solid idea of what the full game would offer. Since then, I’ve played a lot of Diablo Immortal, and I got Diablo IV around three weeks ago. You’d think I would play one character to the end of the story, but no, I played every class. My main, a Rogue named RhodaRargh, has just entered Act III at level forty, and all my other characters are around level thirty. At this point I can safely say I’ve seen the core loop even if I’m not yet ready to fire off a review.

What I am ready for is an in-depth examination of what Diablo Immortal offers in relation to Diablo IV, and I’ll say right up front, I am genuinely shocked at who is winning this contest with flying colors. I’m coming into this contest with years of bias against free mobile games and all their bullshit. So believe me when I say how shocking it is that I am endorsing Diablo Immortal as the winner by a freakin’ landslide.

Before I get to the apples to oranges fight, let me be clear to avoid drama with the die-hard fans. I’m not saying that Diablo IV sucks, okay? I’m just saying that Diablo Immortal manages to do a better job of getting me into the game while respecting my time and my budget. Continue reading