Monthly Archives: February 2016

Game(s) review: Mommy’s Best Games Bundle for Steam

Explosionade is a featured game on Steam today, and under it was a bundle of four games from Mommy’s Best Games for 7.99. That many games for one dirt cheap price had me thinking “At least one of them has to be worthy of a review.” And it turns out, all of them are, with three being truly fun diversions. So today, you get FOUR reviews in one post. AREN’T YOU LUCKY!

(Hint: You are!)

So let’s start with Explosionade, which I didn’t quite know what to make of at first, so I closed it and played the others before coming back around for a second attempt. It grew on me after the first few levels.

You play a stereotypical nerd given guard duty while all the “manlier” soldiers in your space army are planning a final assault on an alien base. Getting bored, Private Atticus looks inside the storage bay he’s guarding and finds a prototype mech that’s so sweet, he HAS to take it for a test drive. In the sewers. This leads him to finding a whole bunch of aliens. Let the butt stompening commence! Continue reading

Book review: Vessels by Kealan Patrick Burke

Vessels is the last Timmy Quinn book that I will read, and also likely will be the last book I read from Kealan Patrick Burke. In a way, this bothers me because the first in the series, The Turtle Boy, was such a good introduction to the main character and his ability to give power to spirits thirsting for revenge. But the second book The Hides took some massive missteps for me, and Vessels doubles down on these problems while also making me aware of what’s truly missing from the series as a whole.

There’s no emotional investment in the characters. There never has been, but at least in the first book it was easy to miss because of how quickly the story unfolds. But with the second and third books, it becomes clear that far more attention is given to the locations than to any of the characters, Tim included. The writing is always good, but there’s loving attention to the details of the locales and homes that people inhabit, while the people themselves are so flat as to seem two dimensional.

Maybe I’m being unfair because these stories are all in a short novelette/novella format, but I still feel like these could have added a few more chapters to flesh out the characters, which would help build the mood and create some sense of dread. But after the first book, the sequels both have the exact same too fast plot. Tim goes somewhere to “get a fresh start,” and then bam, here’s a ghost. The only difference is that in the second outing, Tim’s parents forced this decision on him, and in the third, he’s making this choice on his own. I think this third story says Tim arrived a couple weeks back, but it skips the little bit of quiet time that could have been used for character development and moves right into the same haunting routine.

Tim has now grown to be a middle-aged man who rather than coming to terms with his abilities is still looking in vain for a place where no one has ever been murdered. This is a lost cause, really. The only way finding such a sanctuary would be possible is to journey to a place where humans have never been before and to live alone forever. Instead, Tim has opted to go to a remote island, and the story leaves no breathing room to get to know the locals before Tim is once again encountering angry ghosts. Continue reading

Game review: Bionic Command: Rearmed for Steam

Bionic Commando: Rearmed has been one of those games that I was reluctant to play after suffering through the train wreck that was the 3D “sequel.” But I wondered, “How bad could it be?” Pretty bad, actually.

Well no, that’s not entirely fair. Certainly, many levels remain mostly faithful to the original NES game, although GRIN felt the need to add secret areas to uncover and upped the difficulty in many places. The dialogue of the original game was pretty bad, so I can see why they might decide to make changes to that, but I’m not fond of the “wacky” tone of the new material. This is a game about resurrecting Hitler in a bid to take over the world, after all, so why did someone feel the need to lighten the mood with bad comedy? (And it is bad, with not a single joke being even remotely funny.) Of course, since this is using the same engine that made that 3D turd, there had to be dialogue added to remind you about Rad’s “missing” wife. (Thanks, guys. I’d almost blocked that idiotic memory out.)

There’s other changes that I’m not sure how to feel about. In the original game, killing enemies would make them drop green bullets, and after collecting enough of these, the player would earn one hit point. Now there’s a health meter given right away, and instead of dropping bullets, the enemies drop points for some scoring system that I don’t even know where to look to find it. In the NES game, you could only go into each level with one item, but in the new game, all weapons and items are worn at all times, and you can swap weapons on the fly. Someone decided to add grenades to the game, making it possible to blow up enemies hiding behind obstacles or lurking on the floor below. The barrels that the enemies hide behind can now be picked up and thrown. Oh, and replacing the wiretapping option in each communications station is a hacking mini-game. I don’t hate it, but it’s another arbitrary change that makes me ask “Why?” Continue reading

Game review: Hell Yeah! for Steam

Sega is giving away some older games on Steam in a bundle, and Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is the only one in the bundle I haven’t played before. As it’s free, this will temper my review somewhat. Man, what a festering bowl of dog snot. I KID! But seriously, this game was very much a mixed bag for me, with lots of stuff to love, and almost as much to hate in equal portions.

Let’s start with the premise. Hell is now run by a dead rabbit, Ash, who has deposed his father for control of the realm. Given how little Ash knows about his own kingdom, and how so few of his subjects seem to respect his authority, I’m going to guess he hasn’t been in power long. But this is just a guess, as the story is ambiguous on that point. In any case, Ash gets caught taking a bath with a rubber duck, and fearing what this might do to his reputation, he sets out to kill every last demon who has seen the pictures online.

So far, so wacky, and the various worlds that make up hell are no less crazy. There’s almost too much going on in the design, although there’s only a few places where it becomes so distracting as to be a problem. In those cases, it’s because the design is in the foreground, hiding Ash, several enemies, and their projectiles. This makes it really hard to know which way to move to dodge, but thankfully, it doesn’t happen very often. Continue reading

Book review: Flawless by Sara Shepard

When I said I couldn’t wait to read Flawless after finishing Pretty Little Liars, that wasn’t empty words. I just finished posting my review before I got the next book and started on the first chapter. Now that I’m done, I’d very much like to buy the next and keep going. But I can’t, because I’ve spent my limit for the whole month already and have to wait until next month. And okay, I have lots of other books I can read in the meantime, but I really want to keep going with this series.

I can’t help but feel for all four of these main characters even when they’re behaving badly. Emily’s in denial about her sexuality and is making some bad choices that can only come back to burn her sometime soon. Hanna’s paying for her actions in the previous book, but set on a crash course that may lead back to bulimia. Spencer’s still trying to keep her affair with her sister’s ex a secret, even as this is having an impact on her schoolwork and life at home. And Aria is leaving a family secret festering until it can’t be hidden any longer. All of this is merely side dressing to the central plot of A and their merciless manipulations of the four former friends.

And they are still former friends, with each girl unwilling to share her secrets because of fear of rejection and abandonment. This is the part that rings most true for me, having dealt with blackmail at a very early age. The threat of exposure is so frightening that no one can be trusted, even those who seem closest. It doesn’t help that for each of these girls, there’s someone that they feel they can trust who ends up betraying them. Continue reading

Book review: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

This review is taking place near 4 AM after several chants of “one more chapter,” so if it gets a little muddled, that’s sleep deprivation. I got Pretty Little Liars because it was supposed to be outside my comfort zone of fantasy and horror. Turns out it’s an older comfort zone, something I haven’t read since my early teens. It’s one part soap opera with one part mystery, and I really can’t wait to read the next book in this series.

The first chapter was a little slow as a start, but from then on, my only constant thought was “GOT-DAMN! WHERE WAS THIS KIND OF BOOK WHEN I WAS A TEENAGER?!” I mean, sure, I’ve read similar stories in my teens, but those were always about do-gooder teens who were trying to solve some mystery. Think Nancy Drew, but with some PG-13 snogging on the side. But this…these main characters are the bit characters that those old books always held up as the worst examples while the narrator suddenly aged twenty years to lecture, “Kids, don’t be like this or you’ll end up a useless nobody.”

There’s affairs with older guys, teen drinking, pot smoking, bulimia, shoplifting, and repressed lesbian desires. Oh my gosh, I’m fanning myself and trembling with barely contained excitement. It’s like someone heard all of my teenage complaints “where are the characters like me?” These young ladies are everything I ever wanted in my fiction, and then some. Continue reading

Game review: Ronin for Steam

Steam is having yet another sale, and Ronin was down to 7 euros, which hubby said was okay for our budget. Ronin has been on my wishlist for a while based on game play trailers, but having completed it with the “happy ending” in a little under fifteen hours, I have to say, I really, really hate this game. I ought to be used to half baked indie games with shit controls, buggy interfaces, and bad level design, but seeing a combination of all of them plus gleeful trolling by the maker knowing nothing in their game works consistently? Oh, that’s enough to raise a super seiyan level hate boner.

You might think I’m exaggerating, but in the “hints” is the comment that the jump arc lies. The arc is a fundamental part of the interface, because when you go into combat the controls go turn-based and you CANNOT move any other way than using the jump with the right stick. Now I want to be fair and say that this control scheme has potential. The problem is that where the end of the arc indicates your landing point is not accurate for 80% of your jumps. Why should it matter? Because it’s the difference between landing on a ledge and landing on a laser or a land mine.

Worse still, the arcing path you think you’ll take is also often inaccurate, which will send your eponymous ronin (who I will name…Ronin) leaping directly into gunfire. Between turns, the enemy line of fire is represented by red lines, so optimally you want to ease your jump arc under those lines. But quite often what seems like the right height will end up a lie, and Ronin takes a face and chest full of bullets. As you die with one shot, this is…aggravating, to say the least. It’s even more annoying because the game isn’t long, nor is it particularly difficult. Had the arc line and landing points been more accurate, I probably could have finished in around 4 to 5 hours, tops. As it is, I didn’t win because I got better at the game. I won through sheer willpower and blind fucking luck. Continue reading

Book review: The Radleys by Matt Haig

Wow. Okay, yeah, it’s easy to please me with a vampire story, but The Radleys has been one of the best I’ve read since Let The Right One In, and like that book, I feel a strong need to gush excessively about how very good this story is. It’s an examination of extremes, and it finds both lifestyles lacking while advocating something closer to moderation.

I realize this next comparison may offend some vampire fans, but from the start, I thought of Twilight. If the Cullens are considered vegetarians for consuming only animal blood, then the Radleys are strict vegans who have abstained from all blood drinking. Indeed, their daughter Clara has gone off of meat entirely in a misguided bid to get closer to animals, most of whom are deathly afraid of her. At the start of this story, parents Peter and Helen have yet to inform their teenage children that they’re vampires. This ends about as well as you’d expect when Clara gets a taste of blood and goes into a frenzy. The body she leaves behind is so badly mangled that Peter desperately calls in his brother Will for help with damage control.

There’s another Twilight comparison, but one more indirect in that these vampires are a departure from the typical mythos. For one thing, they aren’t immortal, only living a few centuries with a steady supply of blood. Also, in this world, the Radleys aren’t considered as radical as the Cullens in their approach to life, as they’re following a set of guidelines from a self-help book, The Abstainer’s Handbook (Second Edition) a dreadful tome advising never doing anything. Even using one’s imagination is warned against, lest it lead to actually living. Anyone practicing this lifestyle isn’t living at this point, and with each passage from the guide doled out, I felt awful for any vampire trapped in such a dreadful state. It advises a much shortened existence filled with headaches, skin rashes, and lethargy, and at one point suggests that maybe suicide is preferable to being a vampire. It’s a charming little pill, really. Continue reading

Book review: Salvage by Duncan Ralston

When I bought Salvage, it was because the blurb made me think of Harbour, and I hoped it might carry some of the same elements of humor, charm, and dread. Unfortunately, this book never really appealed to me. It lacks any trace of charm, the dread found within has no sense of impact, and the humor is mocking derision of stereotypes. I stuck with it, but every few chapters, I’d put it down and look for something to distract me. I finally forced myself to finish it so I could move on to something else, but the ending was just as dissatisfying as the start.

I suppose my first and biggest problem is with Owen, the main character, who has no personality. He has a job, but that’s about all there is to him, making his introduction flat and dull. His connection to his sister is supposed to be really important, but this isn’t shown during the early chapters. In fact, the opposite is shown, that despite his sister’s zeal for life, Owen himself is just going through the motions, waiting for old age to take him. Even her death is no catalyst for change. Rather it’s the appearance of her ghost beckoning him to follow her to the scene of her death that incites him to action.

He’s also got no sense of empathy, and this is a trait that seems to be shared by the narrator. Everyone else in the story is cast in suspicious shades by Owen and the narrator’s shared scorn or derision, and while I admit it’s a personal issue, that sense of cynicism kept me from getting into the story.

But there’s other problems, like the narration being inconsistent. As an example, during one scene Owen is asked to close the blinds in a hospital room. But as he’s leaving, the other character “looks out the window at the darkening sky.” Right, through the closed blinds, huh? There’s quite a lot of this, as if something that happened only a few pages before was already forgotten. Continue reading

Game review: Crashlands for PC

Crashlands gives me fits trying to decide how to score it. The biggest hurdle I have in giving it a better score lies in several glitches and in the lousy controls, problems that frequently and consistently plagued my playthrough even when they weren’t always fatal.

Before I begin my review properly, I want to mention two things that are slightly related. First of all, I picked up this game because Kotaku ran such a glowing review about it, and the activities they listed certainly made it sound funny, fun, and unique. But–and this is what irks me–what they mention is all stuff that happens in the first half hour of what is a very, very long game. This would be like me doing a book review based off the first paragraph without finishing the rest of the book. (I’ll be returning to that book analogy again later for another issue.) It’s a pretty lousy review that is written even though you’ve not even made it to the first boss of the game. I know y’all are in a rush to do these things quickly, but damn, this is some seriously lazy reviewing, ya know? At least beat the first boss before you rush to the keyboard to gush.

The second thing I want to mention is that this is a cross platform game, and someone pirated the Android version and is selling it on Amazon’s app store as their own game. Whatever my feelings for the game are, this is so not cool, even before you take into account that one of the three brothers who made it has cancer. It takes a special kind of scumbucket to steal the hard work of an independent artist, but this particular scumpuppy stole it and then sold it as their own product. What the ever-lovin’ fuck, y’all. Continue reading