Category Archives: other peoples’ stuff

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

Game review: Cult of the Lamb for Steam

Way back in 2021, I did a review for the mobile version of My Friend Pedro and said that Devolver Digital games never fully clicked for me. I still hold that same opinion, but I keep giving their games a chance because as a publisher, they seem to be the most earnest and ethical folks in the gaming industry, and because they are willing to publish weird, original games instead of chasing the latest bestsellers.

Take Cult of the Lamb as a prime example, where the main character is an actual lamb being led to the slaughter to prevent a prophesied return of an evil god. One minute into the game that lamb is killed, only to be resurrected by the aforementioned god. He commands them to kill his enemies, build a cult, and free him from his eternal prison. It’s one part The Binding of Isaac mixed with Cult Simulator. On paper, that sounds fantastic.

In practice, the wonderful dungeon crawling bits are dragged down by the cult maintenance, and a large part of managing the cult being a drag falls on the industry-wide decision to have ridiculously accelerated day/night cycles. I hated that “feature” in Skyrim and Fallout. I hated it in GTA V. And in Cult of the Lamb, they decided to make an even faster clock speed while chopping the night into a ridiculously short quarter wedge of the in-game clock. Continue reading

What I’m watching: Anime

Right, I’m doing this list because despite playing two games, reading two books, and one manga, I still am nowhere close to having a review ready. It’s not a case of not putting in the effort either. I just have a lot on my plate. For instance, this last week, we got invited to go to a local theater to watch a production of The importance of Being Earnest. I’m not a huge fan of Oscar Wilde, but I haven’t been to a theater production since grade school, and I figured, wouldn’t it be nice to do something different for the weekend?

I looked around and realized I didn’t have any theater appropriate clothing. So each day after lunch, I went shopping. The first day looking for shoes was a bust, but each day after, I got a dress shirt and sweater, new pants, and new shoes. The shoes in particular required a bike ride of twenty kilometers, because everyone local caps shoes sizes for ladies at 39, and I’m a 42. (Douglas Addams would say my feet are the answer to everything.) Then of course, there was going to see the play, and by Sunday I didn’t feel like doing anything besides watching cartoons after all that bike riding.

And so here we are, one week blown, and I’m still no closer to a review. But, when I got up this morning, I thought, Hey, why not use my procrastination to my advantage for once? Granted, these aren’t reviews because I’ve not seen a full season of most of them yet. (And the ones I have seen, you probably already know, or will know if you want to see them based on a blurb.) But hey, maybe you’ll see something you like and hop in with me.

And so here we…no, wait, I said that already. Right, on with the anime I’ve been watching! Continue reading

Book review: The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves

I’ve been a big fan of the TV series Vera since it first started airing in Italy, but lately our TV reception has put new seasons in a permanent stasis. We’ve had the technicians out three times in three years, and each time they assure us the signal will be better, and maybe a few days pass before we lose the signal again.

So I decided to buy the first book to see how different it is compared to the show, and it’s a pretty big difference. Part of that has to do with the book being a traditional mystery, inviting the reader to pick up the clues and solve the crime themselves. But even beyond that, the TV show swapped the order of the books and created entire new characters and plot lines.

The Crow Trap, the first book of the series, is actually the third episode of the show. (Book three is episode one, and confusingly, episode two is book two.) The first victim of the book isn’t revealed until thirty percent into the story, and the main character doesn’t come in for the investigation until close to the middle of the book. Even then, the story’s perspective is told from two civilians’ perspectives until seventy percent of the book is done. Only then does Vera take over as the protagonist and give readers insight into her thoughts. Continue reading

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