Category Archives: other peoples’ stuff

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


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


Dead Cells Revisited

These days, no game is a static object, with updates and patches optimizing or fixing different features, or overhauling the gameplay in radical ways. Because of this, a review written at the launch of a game might not apply a year down the road. Old complaints or praise might need to be readdressed as a result of tweaks or changes.

This is most certainly the case with Dead Cells, a game I initially reviewed positively, but which has lost a lot of enjoyment with each new update since it has come out of early access. What started out as a fun platformer suitable for all levels of gamer has now catered itself almost exclusively to the hardcore fans while abandoning everyone else.

During early access, it was clear that certain weapons and skills were just preferable. For instance, the Sinew Slicer and Double Arrow Trap both had short cooldowns and a steady rate of fire, making them damned handy in every boss fight. Grenades, on the other hand, had crap damage and a ridiculously long cooldown rate. To counter this kind of dependence, the game makers nerfed the useful traps and put a limit of only one trap of any kind. Sounds good in theory, except the grenades are still garbage and have a stupidly long cooldown, so they still aren’t an option. Continue reading


Game review: Slay the Spire for Steam

In theory, Slay the Spire should be a perfect game for me. It’s a rogue-like card game climbing three randomly generated towers to battle monsters and bosses with one of four unique protagonists. In practice, however, my enjoyment of the game quickly evaporated because it crosses off every checkbox of bad indie rogue-like design: dully repetitive opening levels, a lack of enemy diversity, a stingy in-game economy combined with overpriced shops, and a slew of items meant specifically to fuck you over, and over, and over again.

Let’s start with the initial positives. You start playing as The Ironclad, a typical video game warrior carrying a giant orcish longsword, armed with a deck of the most basic stuff. You can lay out a Defend card to block five damage for one energy (out of three, though later cards and items may grant you addition energy units per turn), Strike for one, or use a Bash card that consumes two energy and applies a Vulnerable status on the enemy, making the next attack cause more damage. At first, sorting out a strategy amounts to deciding how much damage you want to dish out versus how much health you want to lose. So you could deal more damage by not blocking at all, or cast two Defend cards and only take one or two lost health points while dealing 6 damage. But either way, you will be losing some health in every fight.

Beating each monster offers a reward of three cards to choose from, which—again, in theory—should help move you toward a better strategy than just tanking hits to trade blows. Some rooms have a merchant offering other cards for sell, as well as relics that grant buffs or debuffs for the duration of the run, and potions that usually grant an effect only for the current turn. (Some might give you a card that will last throughout the current fight, but will vanish before your next fight.) Beating the boss of the tower offers up a choice of three boss relics, most of which offer a benefit combined with a negative caveat. Continue reading


Game review: Swords of Ditto for Steam

I’ve put this review off for some time, playing Swords of Ditto several times and waiting for a moment when it might finally click for me and become fun. Sadly, that never happened, and I mean sadly in that I wanted to like this game. It’s a riff on Zelda with cartoony graphics and a cute soundtrack, a randomly generated game world where your weapons are “toys.” (Some really don’t qualify as toys, like vinyl records, but whatever.) Beating the game begins to unlock more characters to play through the story with, each of which has some special stat or starting toy. On paper, it sounds like a good time.

In practice, it’s just not fun. It starts with a tutorial section involving the death of your character, the eponymous Sword of Ditto. A hundred years pass and a new Sword is awakened and told how to fight against Mormo, the evil witch who is bound to the land by a curse. This is fine the first time you play, but even on a second run, it becomes annoying. It doesn’t help that even if you unlock other characters, the first run is always the same.

Combat is similarly tedious until you can manage to retrieve one or both of the toys of legend present on the island. Since few enemies are stunned by your sword’s swing, combat is essentially swing, move back, step in to swing and move back. Higher difficulty levels don’t change enemy behavior, they just nerf the sword’s damage, drawing out every fight to unbearable slowness. Continue reading