Author Archives: Zoe_E_W

Book review: I Am Behind You by John A. Lindqvist

A book review? Do I even know how to do this anymore? I’ll tell you what, let me do two short hit jobs on a couple of other books that I didn’t finish as warm up stretches before getting to the real review. Sound fun? Let’s begin.

First up is that book I mentioned reading at work that got stolen along with my bike. I said before that I had maybe 30 pages left and I wasn’t sure if I cared how it ended. With more time to reflect, I can now say I don’t. The book is The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer, and I know I said in reviewing The Host that I would read her work in any genre, a spy thriller featuring a romance between a CIA torturer and her victim was apparently a bridge too far for me. Sorry, Steph, but better luck next time. Oh, and hey, good on you for having twins in a book and not using the hackneyed psychic twin connection trope, unlike my next victim.

Book 2 on the hit list is Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Clone, er, Owen King, and I shit you not, I tried sticking with this book for well over a year and a half even through reading each chapter felt like crawling across a carpet made of thumbtacks and table salt. Leave it to King to come up with a premise where all the women get transported to a magical land where they can rebuild society over many months, hold social circles, and eventually decide they really need the D. Meanwhile, over in the man’s world, only a few hours have passed, and that short time is a fucking endless treadmill of “Man, men sure are shit, right?” Yeah, I get it. I got it after the first five examples, and after that shit got drainingly repetitive, not even the promise of an explosive man battle could get me through the last 100 pages. I still remember King saying he was retiring because his stuff was getting repetitive, and while I have a top ten list comprised solely of his works, I kinda wish he’d either get back to retirement, or get back on the kinds of drugs that made his earlier work more interesting.

Right, with those victims dispatched, let’s talk about I Am Behind You by John A. Lindqvist, or rather, let’s take a moment to appreciate what a shitty choice of English title this is compared to the original. The original title is Himmelstrand, which refers to the songwriter and journalist Peter Himmelstrand. Peter’s songs are part of the story, as well as the writer himself. So even if the original title is a bit meh, it at least fits the story. Meanwhile, I Am Behind You is just meaningless. There is never a killer behind a victim. No one is ever behind anyone, for that matter. I Am Inside You might have worked, but whoever chose the English title needs to reread the story over and over until they come up with something more fitting. I know, it’s a moot point since they already published a trilogy and tripled down on these garbage names, but a girl can dream, yo. Continue reading


Game review: My Friend Pedro: Ripe for Revenge for Android

I’m sure I mentioned in my last post that I was close to finishing a book to review here, and it wasn’t long after that when my bike was stolen, along with the thermic backpack I needed to work, and the aforementioned book. I’m debating buying it again because I’m not sure if I liked it so much that I want to pay for it twice. On the other hand, I did only have 30 pages left…

Anyway, this is a review for My Friend Pedro: Ripe for Revenge (I will be shortening the title to Pedro for the rest of this post), which just came out on Android and I believe also on iOS. It is published by Devolver Digital, whom I have a lot of respect for even if I have yet to find a single game from their collective of indie developers that has fully clicked for me. That’s also the case here, but I want to talk about the game’s better points before laying out why it didn’t always work for me.

For starters, you can download the game for free and play all the levels, provided you don’t die. Doing so will result in the game asking you to buy the premium version before bumping you back to level 1 with all the levels you’ve played locked once again. In theory, if you were a badass gamer, you might be able to play the whole thing for free. I am not, so after a few rounds of making it to level 4 or 6 and dying, I said, “Eh, it’s only 2.49 euros, so I’ll just go ahead and buy it.” (I believe it’s $2.99 in the US.)

(Edit: This was how the game functioned at the time of release, but now the free version allows for saving progress by watching ads. I can’t speak to how that works because the update came out after I had already gone in on the premium version.) Continue reading


Game review: Psychonauts for Steam

I need to apologize for the long, long gap in between posts and explain myself before I get to the actual review. You see, I’ve bought three games, and in all three cases, I bounced off of them hard before I could get anywhere close enough to write a review. I’m just about done with a book for review, but lately it seems like I only read at work during breaks. Otherwise, I can’t seem to make myself sit to read.

Because of the gap between posts, it annoys me to be making this a negative review, but it can’t be helped. Let me start by saying that I bought Psychonauts around six years back and found the controller support to be pretty bad. I tried playing with mouse and keyboard, but I had major issues with the camera controls, leading to me rage quitting very early into the game. Recently, I saw someone comment that the controller support had been improved, so I loaded it back up and started over. I almost wish I hadn’t.

I don’t have any nostalgia for this game, or for Double Fine. I’m coming at this as someone who’s heard endless praise for this title as one of the greats, and went in mostly flying blind. What I found was a mess that gathers all the worst habits of early 3D platforming and covers them in an oh-so-wacky wrapper. Continue reading


I’m going to talk about mobile games now

When I first got my Kindle tablet, and later my first Android phone, I imagined that I would have a new and near endless source of review material. In theory it’s a pool of free games so I can have a new review every week to fill in the gaps made by my lowered PC and PS4 game budget. (And by my frankly abysmal recent track record with reading books for review.)

It sounded good, in theory, but in reality I ended up deleting a lot of games within hours of starting them. Some were puzzle games that insisted on showing me what gems/candy/critters to match if I even hesitated for one second and gave no option to turn “idiot mode” off. Others built their platforms around watching ads for other games. (Some games have asked me to watch no less than ten ads per day just to pick up daily reward items that other games gave just for signing in.) If I delete something that fast, I can’t really review it, can I? No, that simply won’t do.

There are games that I didn’t delete, and I kept thinking to review them, except I didn’t want to recommend any of them. I’m playing them regularly, most certainly am getting something out of playing them, and don’t see a reason to quit. And yet, I hesitate to offer them out and say, “You should play these, too.”

I think it comes down to two reasons, which I will name and then illustrate with examples from each of the games that are still holding my attention even as they frustrate me with free mobile mechanics. For now, the reasons I hesitate to endorse these better examples of the free market are their shockingly high prices for cheap digital tat and their built-in methods of hindering progress just to drag out the whole experience. Continue reading


Game review: The Legend of Bum-Bo for Steam

It’s funny that in my last blog post, I mentioned The Binding of Isaac for both being aggravating and entertaining. While searching for a new puzzle or card game to play in between shooters and more hardcore stuff like Dark Souls, I randomly ran across The Legend of Bum-Bo on sale on Steam. The description for it is a deck-building puzzle RPG, and a prequel to all the various flavors of Isaac. Having seen trailers and gameplay preview videos, I had some idea of what I was going into, but I had no clue how fast the gameplay loop would hook me. There’s still problems that bugged me, but this is for sure going to be one of my more positive reviews in a while.

Before getting into the details, I think a warning of sorts is fair. Edmund McMillen games all have a certain level of shit in them. I don’t mean a bad game element. I mean feces and urine are quite common in his stuff. If I ever interviewed Ed, one of my early questions would have to be “did you get trapped in a sewer while tripping on acid or shrooms?” This game is no exception, so if you find weaponized poo and pee offensive, Ed’s games are not for you. And that’s okay.

But to begin with, Bum-Bo’s game isn’t so much a direct prequel as it is a setting imagined by Isaac before his mother’s psychotic break with reality forced him into hiding. Each level is made inside a diorama with puppets dangling from strings or sticks, and pretty much every element is constructed from paper and/or cardboard. It sounds dumb described in mere words like this, but in practice, the treatment gives most levels a kind of charm that was missing from Isaac’s top-down twin-stick shooter. Continue reading


A non-review of Dreamgate for Steam

All right, so this is not a review because Dreamgate is still currently in early access. As such, many or all details I share with y’all might change before the game goes gold and launches for real. But really, in this modern era of gaming, updates and patches post launch might radically change any game after it’s reviewes. Take Dead Cells for example. I gave that game glowing praise as an early access offering, and after going gold, the developers have continued to shit on the game with new unbalanced biomes and one-shot enemies that cater only to the hardcore crowd while telling those of us who supported them in early access that we can kindly go fuck ourselves for enjoying their product on a lowly casual level.

*Sighs* But I’m not bitter about it or anything.

Anywho, Dreamgate is a card game merged with a dungeon crawler. It’s similar to Slay the Spire, but offers more player classes, and boasts on their Steam page that there’s no mana or energy required to play cards. (I’ll be coming back to this selling point soon, because it’s the main reason I bought the game.) You start out with one passive skill and a tiny deck, and then you slowly collect more cards through winning battles and leveling up. Defeated enemies give XP, and each level-up offers up three new cards. Don’t like any of the new options? Hit Skip and hope for a better pull on the next level-up or dungeon room victory. (Though it should be mentioned that certain low-level rooms don’t drop cards, so it’s entirely possible to win four and five battles for no reward.)  Continue reading


Game review: Borderlands 3 for Steam

Oh, my, Gawd, y’all. It feels like I have been playing this game forever. Steam says I’ve played 200 hours to reach the end, but in my mind, it feels so, so much longer. It isn’t because the game sucks or looks bad. Let me be clear, it just feels like an eternity since I first started up my first run through Borderlands 3 because there’s so much packed into this package. That should come across as a ringing endorsement, and yet here I am, feeling fatigued and a little sick of having too much to do.

I had to wait for the game to come to Steam, as Epic’s storefront is a bit meh, even if they keep giving out nice free games to try and entice me over. Steam’s interface is still shit, bit Epic is even more shit, so I had to be patient. In the meantime, I read all kinds of middling reviews about how Borderlands 3 just wasn’t that good, and I worried that after all this time, it wouldn’t be worth the wait.

So now I’ve had the chance to play it, and what is my own verdict? Well…I mean, it’s good, but it’s just so fucking long. Continue reading


Netflix nosedive: Mystic Pop-Up Bar

Hoo boy, this show, y’all. It’s not at all what I thought it would be. I watched it because there’s no new Midnight Diner, and Mystic Pop-Up Bar looked to be offering the same balance of food porn and plot based on the trailers. But instead it’s the kind of show that twists and contorts at the oddest moments. One scene, it’s saying, “Oh, I’m just a silly slapstick comedy! Look at these exaggerated movements and facial expressions! Hear those cartoony sound effects? So wacky!”

But then an instant later, the show punches a hole in your chest, rips out you heart and goes, “Are these heart strings? You mind if I pluck out a few sad chords?” It then proceeds to play the saddest song possible, and it’s brutal. There was one episode where I was sobbing with two fistfuls of tissues to catch my tears, and I thought maybe I was just being too sensitive. But I glanced at my hubby, and he was ugly crying too. And he don’t cry for nothin’ y’all. So consider yourself warned. If you come for the laughs, be prepared to cry as well.

With that warning out of the way, Mystic Pop-Up Bar is about an traveling bar owner, Weol Joo, who has been sentenced by the devil to help 100,000 people settle their grudges or face soul oblivion. She does this by entering their dreams and sussing out the best strategy for healing their spiritual wounds. Weol is actually pretty close to reaching her goal, but she’s also begun dragging her heels on solving her last few cases. So the powers that be give her a deadline: finish those last few cases, NOW.

Weol encounters a young man, Han Kang Bae, who has a unique ability: people spill their darkest secrets to him with a single touch. Han considers this power a curse, and Weol promises to help him get rid of his abilities if he helps her find the last few clients to erase her debt to the devil. Continue reading


Netflix Nosedive: The Umbrella Academy Season 2

Right, let’s just get this out of the way and drop a cut: if you haven’t seen season 1 of The Umbrella Academy, don’t read this review unless you’re fine with spoilers. If you hate spoilers, at least go watch the first season and know all the joy it entails to watch a thing spoiler-free. As for the second, I’ll try to be as vague as possible, but there will still be mild spoilers. Right, with the warnings out of the way, cue the cut now… Continue reading


Game review: 20XX for Steam

20XX was added to my Want To Play list right after I saw the first trailers for it. Basically it can be summed up as “Mega Man, but roguelite.” I’d just completed Mega Man X on my Vita for the first time, and I was ready for something else to fill that platforming action void.

But then a lot of other games caught my attention, and it wasn’t until a random YouTube hiccup brought the game back to my attention that I tried it out. Now I’m deeply conflicted about how to review this. In short doses, it’s great, scratching that old school itch with just the right level of challenge and action. But it doesn’t take long to notice there’s not enough variety of environments or bosses to keep this from getting stale quickly.

In classic Mega Man style, the story casts you as Nina the good robot versus a squadron of evil robots and their minions. You defeat robot bosses and can choose to take their powers. But as an added twist, you might opt to get some extra currency instead, or you might select an extra augmentation to help beef up your robot’s health, energy, or their basic attacks. Continue reading