Category Archives: food

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Dragon Fin Soup

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Y’all know I love a good, strange-as-heck videogame title, and Dragon Fin Soup is a wonderful example of such a beauty. One, it contains the word dragon, so I’m already intrigued, but it also sounds more like a fancy, medieval recipe than a tactical RPG mixed with roguelike elements and procedurally generated worlds. It tells you nothing about the game, but entices you to check it out nonetheless, which is exactly what I did…many years ago. According to my save file, I played 21 minutes and 51 seconds total. Well, let’s revisit the abnormal critter once more now in 2019 before I get to the uninstalling part.

Dragon Fin Soup stars Red Robin, a charming, yet raging alcoholic bounty hunter who would rather get into a bar fight than deliver baked goods. Players must take up Robin’s blades and set out across Asura, a lushly colorful fantasy world that sits on the back of an enormous space turtle–um, was Terry Pratchett okay with this?–on a journey to discover the secrets of her bloody past. That’s the setup, and it’s pretty interesting; at least our protagonist isn’t an amnesiac for no reason whatsoever. I’m just not sure how much like a twisted version of Red Riding Hood she is supposed to be…

Okay, now I remember what my initial problem with Dragon Fin Soup was. For some reason, the entire game doesn’t fit on my small, desk TV monitor, with important UI being cut off in the four corners or hard to read entirely. Alas, there is no option within the game to correct this, and I don’t have this problem with any other game on my PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 2…so I’m not sure how to correct it. Grrr. It makes figuring out what is going on a bit difficult, especially returning to the game after so many years away from it. Not impossible, but just more work than I want to put into this thing.

Dragon Fin Soup reminds me a bit of Dungeons of Dredmor, which…was a game I didn’t understand at all during my first few attempts at it. Nowadays, I’m much more familiar with the roguelike genre, but that doesn’t mean I love every game that takes permadeath super seriously or identifying items essential for breathing. For every Spelunky or The Binding of Isaac, there are countless other iterations that take inspiration from the punishing genre and run with it, for better or for worse. I think it is all about feel, and something feels off in Dragon Fin Soup; perhaps it is too much information at once or none at all. Speaking of that…

There’s no tutorial, though there is a dream sequence at the start that immediately throws you into combat. After that, you are left to your own devices, which for me, returning to this after years of being away, did nothing good for me. Dragon Fin Soup is a turn-based strategy game. Each move the player makes gives enemy units a chance to respond. Thankfully, it’s not as slow and laborious as it sounds. In fact, once you get a hang of the game’s rhythm and controls, combat can be fast-paced and frenetic. You’ll need to use a mix of magic, bombs, gunplay, and melee combat to take down your adversaries. I unfortunately didn’t get to see enough to keep me engaged and wanting to explore more or learn about Red Robin’s past.

Maybe in another life, Dragon Fin Soup. You still have a wonderfully odd title, and for that alone I give you all the kudos.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

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2017 Game Review Haiku, #75 – Escape from a Ramen Shop

A few months ago
I had delicious Ramen
Great noodles and broth

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Rescuing a village of emotional fruit people is just what you do in Karambola

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Here’s a funny coincidence: I played Karambola, and then, the next day, ate some carambola, for the first time, as part of a fruit salad when visiting family for babies and a BBQ. I found the starfruit to be quite sweet, but maybe my taste-buds are off as I was the only one to think this. Others claimed it as bitter. To me, it tasted like a sweeter grape–no, not the cotton candy kind–and I am officially a fan. I’m also a fan of the point-and-click adventure-in-your-browser game Karambola, strange as it is, an artsy mix of bitter and sweet, a satisfying snack in the end.

First, if anything, Holy Pangolin Studio’s Karambola has reminded me of a great sin–that I’ve not yet played Samorost 3 this year despite totally saying I wanted to. These games swim in the same bizarre and silly point-and-click adventure pool where everything is all at once familiar and slightly unsettling. I mean, in this one, a flock of evil bird-thoughts–which I assume are standard endothermic vertebrates that happen to bring about unwanted thinking to those they encounter, like gray clouds hanging overhead–attack a village of peaceful and, might I add, emotional fruit people. Unfortunately for our titular protagonist Karambola, all of his friends scatter, lost to their own inner demons, and it’s up to you to bring them back via some smart if unconventional puzzle-solving clicking.

Each distraught villager is its own scene and puzzle, and some are easier to figure out than others, but all clues are directly in front of you, distorted or purposefully blurred, hidden in the environment for you to find. Still, everything is eventually doable with enough thinking and clicking, and you are then treated to a little animation of the emotional fruit-headed villager coming back to reality and happiness, color washing the screen clean. Then it is back to the Mega Man-esque level select screen to save the next downer, until all hope is returned.

Music and sound effects are vital to Karambola‘s storytelling, especially since you only get a screen of text at the start to explain the setup and then nothing more. Audio helps sell these villagers as villagers and sets the tone for each scene, whether it is the rhythmic lighting up of windows or muted guitar chords as a pinecone-headed figure cries into a wooden tube in the woods. A lot of the music is low, soft, clearly atmospheric, and it mixes strongly with the colorless, almost sketch-like artwork of the fruit people against the water-colored backdrops. There’s also a really fantastic little musical loop that plays when you click on the evil bird-thoughts to get a glimpse of unspoken story in their silhouetted bodies. Some of the bands on the soundtrack include Bird of Either and Avell, which are both new to me.

Lastly, some linkage. I know, I know…I just linked to some bands’ Facebook pages, but these are the more game-relevant ones. First, check out this interview with Karambola‘s creator Agata Nawrot. Second, give this oddball of a game a shot by clicking here and enjoying it in whatever browser you like to use. I played mine in Mozilla Firefox, for what it’s worth. Lastly, fruit flies are the worst, but evidently evil bird-thoughts are much worse, so don’t let your guard down. After all, there’s never been a better time to be playing videogames than right now.

Don’t worry, everyone, for I found all 10 yellow cupcakes

find 10 yellow cupcakes capture

I have a bunch of Grinding Down posts in the work, all in different shapes of completion and on pretty diversified topics, such as marbles, sneaking around and stabbing tourists, and battling monsters that grow stronger ever turn, but I’m not really feeling motivated to write about any of them at the moment. Here’s my rule–don’t force your writing. Write when you are inspired or when you just can’t stop typing, when the ideas in your head are bouncing around, gasping for air. When it is fun and not a hassle. So, instead of churning out words and phrases I feel no connection to at the given moment, I’ll wax on a bit about a little Flash distraction I stumbled across recently called Find 10 Yellow Cupcakes, playable in your browser over here.

In Find 10 Yellow Cupcakes, you must do just that. It follows the same logic behind Escape the Barn. It’s an “escape the room” style point-and-click adventure game, with the twist being that, in order to escape this rather calm, if barely furnished home of yours, you must first gather up ten yellow cupcakes. For who, you surely ask? I don’t know. Let’s say it is either aliens or really picky friends, as they will not stoop low enough to eat green cupcakes. Anyways, eight of these cupcakes are hidden throughout the house, and there’s some item-driven puzzling involved to get the last two into your collection, but you’ll find these cupcakes by clicking on things, opening drawers and doors, and entering in passcodes to breach security locks.

You might think finding ten yellow cupcakes is…a piece of cake. ::rimshot:: I’m here to tell you otherwise. Allow me to share with y’all some cupcake-unearthing tips. Remember to interact with everything that looks interactive, like light switches or curtains or even the drain in the sink. Also, in order to use an item, click on it in your inventory and then click on the “About Item” button to see if up close and use other items on it. Lastly, don’t forget, you only care about yellow cupcakes; if you come into possession of a cupcake of a different color, munch away.

Find 10 Yellow Cupcakes is a short, tasty bit of pointing and clicking and deducing, with a minimalistic look and sound design. That’s fine. I wasn’t looking for much here, but once I began gathering cupcakes, the tug to collect them all pulled me along, even when I got stuck over the last two cupcakes. Granted, I knew what I needed to do, but struggled with the game’s interface to get the job done. You also don’t get much feedback or resolution once you find all ten yellow cupcakes and hightail it outside, other than a “hey, congrats, d00d” image. Still, much like a cupcake is all you need when you’re hungering for something sweet, but not too much, MayMay’s latest game satisfied me until dinner. That said, I don’t consider this big enough of an experience to add it to my games I completed in 2015 list.

Careful cooking is love and a minigame in Suikoden II

suikoden 2 cooking minigame

They say that the loveliest thing you can do for someone is cook them a meal. Alas, I’ve never been a great chef. My culinary skills sit somewhere between a good bowl of ramen noodles and a tasty tofu stir-fry with diced up vegetables. Over the summer, I learned how to make a fantastic cucumber salad. But here’s a shocker; I’ve never baked anything in my thirty-one years of life–not a cookie, not a cupcake, not a pie. There’s too much exact science involved in baking, and that terrifies me. Plus, I’m always worried that because I have such low standards for food that what I might think is amazing someone else might view as disgusting, and then I’d hate for them to consume it. In short, this has resulted in an adult life where I do very little cooking for others.

Anyways, how does all this relate to Suikoden II? Well, if you explore your castle headquarters enough you’ll eventually stumble across a man named Hai Yo, who is looking to open up his very own restaurant. Naturally, Hodor thought Dah Castle would be the best place for this because we obviously see so much foot traffic. With Hai Yo now an official member of the Dornish Army, the restaurant is magically put together instantly. Oh, and all those recipes you’ve been collecting so far and throwing in the warehouse for storage can finally be put to good use. As you visit him, you’ll kickoff a lengthy minigame-heavy side quest about Hai Yo and other touring chefs that want to compete against him. Don’t worry; Hodor is deeply involved as his sous chef.

Each cooking competition in the still-very-serious Suikoden II starts out the same way, with you visiting the restaurant to find Hai Yo in the midst of a confrontation. Almost resembles a playground fight, with a circle of people gawking. Hai Yo’s opponent will challenge him to a cooking contest. You then have the option to jump to it or delay while you search for more recipes/ingredients. At this point, I’ve only done one cook-off, but I was so excited to get to this moment and re-experience the wonder and weirdness of it all that I just can’t stop the words leaking from my fingertips.

Hai Yo’s first rival chef is the unfortunately named Yu Kum. There’s a little introductory scene wherein the chefs are announced in a boxing match manner, though Dah Castle’s cook gets some wicked strobe lights, and then the panel of judges is revealed. There are four of them, and they are randomly selected from your group of thus-far collected 108 Stars of Destiny. They are not simply pretty faces though, as each judge does have a food preference, which correlates to how they ultimately score everything. For the Hai Yo/Yu Kum fight, I think my judges were Gengen, Nina, Gilbert, and Ellie. This random element keeps each competition up in the air, so to speak, as you never know who will judge and what they prefer to eat.

After the judges are revealed, Hodor must select an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert from your growing collection of recipes. You can add spices to each recipe to turn them into something else. For example, a salad with salt turns into pickled cabbage. The true secret to winning is as so: first, pick dishes that have a high “deliciousness” rating, and second, remember that Suikoden II was written with the Japanese palate in mind. While a simple bowl of ice cream as a closer might make sense in an American mind-frame, it might not in Japanese culture.

Once you are done making your choices, sit back and watch Hai Yo and Hodor go to work. You can also watch the rival chefs too, but I prefer the former. There’s some really solid animation work here, much of which is particular to the dishes you selected. There are a few meters on the side of the screen showing you how long something is taking to cook, but you can’t interact at all. Then the judges taste the courses and score accordingly, with a final tally tossed up at the end of dessert. I beat Yu Kum by about eight points, earning me his trusted tomato soup recipe.

In spite of it really just being a bunch of menu selections and astute attention to detail, the cooking mini-game is not very interactive. Still, it is a ton of fun to go through, and I’m looking forward to the next competition, as well as gathering some more ingredients and recipes. You can even have Hai Yo make you dishes to use in battle, some with strong effects. I just don’t anticipate having to do that fishing mini-game again, but I know, at some point, I have to. Ugh. Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Disney Magical World have spoiled me on simple, satisfying fishing gameplay, and everything else is too archaic to grok. But how else will I make that delectable salmon dish glazed with soy sauce and brown sugar?

Eat bread, make friends, belt out a ballad, and more in Tomodachi Life

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Since its announcement, I’ve been pretty excited for Tomodachi Life. Watching the gang over at Giant Bomb play through some of its silliness and strangeness during one of the latest Unprofessional Fridays really helped seal the deal, and so I went right out the next day to snag a retail copy of the game. True, this is the sort of game one might want a digital version of so they can pop into it any time they want, but I’m a physical collector at heart. Truthfully, I was surprised to see it priced at $40.00 and initially balked, but decided it is ultimately better to support the quirky titles from Nintendo in hopes of more quirky titles from Nintendo. Paying it forward, y’know.

Anyways, you start out by creating an avatar to be your first island inhabitant. Naturally, narcissistic tendencies took over, and I selected the Mii modeled after me from my Mii Plaza. They refer to this dude as a “Pauly look-alike,” which is pretty cute and, at the same time, alarming. The clones will overtake us all. You can then fill an apartment with more Miis; some I downloaded off the Internet, a few more came over from the Mii Plaza, and I made one or two new ones from scratch. If you want a taste of what my islanders amount to, then here: Shaq, April Ludgate, Ron Swanson, Matt Mason, Minerva McGonagall, Satoru Iwata, and more. Plus, I have about six-seven more empty apartments to fill, but I’m in no rush to see those rooms occupied.

Tomodachi Life is a game best played in small bursts, and slowly at that. You navigate the island, which is more or less a collection of different button prompts, via the touchscreen and stylus. You can go to the food store and see what the daily specials are, you can visit the town fountain and watch as your Miis donate some coin, and you visit event spots like the beach or park to see if anything neat is going down. The main meat of the island is the apartment building, and here you can check in on your Miis. Some may be sleeping, some may be out at their day job, and some may be in someone else’s pad, schmoozing and boozing. Here, you can loosely interact with the Miis, giving them food, clothing, and accessories, and they’ll occasionally want to play a mini-game with you. Some are real simple, like grab an item as it falls, and others are more fun, like guessing what a pixelated item ultimately is. As you interact with these Miis, they level up and can gain additional items, songs, and catchphrases, as well as grow to like–I mean that romantically–other Miis.

I love how Tomodachi Life looks and sounds. Let’s start with visuals. We’re all pretty familiar with how Miis look at this point in Nintendo’s history, and despite just how little customization there actually is around them, they always end up looking strikingly similar to their inspirations. Like, my Ron Swanson…it’s uncanny. Speaking of looking like real-life stuff, the pictures of the food you can buy–as well as the hilarious flavor text–really help sell the entries as digital representations that I actually want to purchase. Just ignore that fact that the shopkeeper is a man with a block of wood for a head…

Audio plays a big part, too. There’s not a ton of background music, but what is there is fine. However, it really does all come down to listening to the Miis talk, whether they have a super high pitch or deeply deep growl. And they say whatever you want them to say, granted you can’t get too crass or pervy as Nintendo is wont to censor that kind of stuff. I love hearing the game refer to them by their actual names out loud. In the past, when you get to name a character, like in an RPG, it was always disappointing to never hear other characters audibly call him or her out in a cutscene. Whenever you win or lose a mini-game, an unseen studio audience cheers or boos, respectively, and you can also have Miis perform some karaoke or write your own songs; I’ve not really delved too deep into that stuff, but it seems ripe for silliness.

I’m enjoying my sporadic sessions with Tomodachi Life, though I do find it easy to burn through just about everything it offers in a single session, leaving me to just sit and stare at an apartment building’s windows, waiting for something, anything, to happen. This quirky title is not long for the world, but that’s okay. It’s a great piece of strange and unpredictable side content for Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and it should help fill in the blank days while we all wait–yes, you should be waiting, too–for Fantasy Life this autumn. I don’t know if I’ll write any further on Tomodachi Life, but you never know–it’s so unpredictable, like that time I gave Minerva a bowl of fried rice and she sky-rocketed into space, so delighted in tasting her favorite food. Yeah, it’s bizarre Nintendo at its best.

Oh, and if you want to add me to your island, by all means, show me a great time:

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2013 Game Review Haiku, #11 – Dinner Date

2013 games completed 11 dinner date

Drink your dinner down
You sad, dead speck of nothing
She is not coming

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.