Monthly Archives: March 2016

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