Category Archives: impressions

Boldly push your luck with Dungeon Roll

I was not conscious of the Dungeon Roll Kickstarter back when it was spinning its fundraising wheels in early 2013, but that’s okay. Everything worked out thanks to 10,000+ backers, and I still stumbled upon the game later in life, in its natural habitat, sitting side by side other various board and dice games in my local Barnes and Noble. It’s one of the sections I gravitate towards first, followed by the new book releases in science fiction and fantasy. Naturally, competition is fierce, but I was drawn to Chris Darden’s Dungeon Roll for two reasons: one, it can be played solo, and two, it came packaged in a tiny treasure chest.

Let me put on all of my DM accessories and tell you all what you ultimately do in Dungeon Roll. This is bite-sized dungeon-crawling adventure with all the traditional D&D wrappings, such as battling monsters, gaining experience points, and grabbing loot. The player’s goal is to collect the most experience through these main actions, and each player randomly selects a hero avatar card at the start, such as a mercenary, half-goblin, or enchantress, which provides unique powers and abilities that will definitely affect how far you can go into the dungeon in each run. My personal favorite is the knight/dragon slayer. Players take turns being the main adventurer, boldly entering the dungeon in hopes of fame and fortune. Or you can play by myself and see how far you can push your luck.

However, before you enter the dungeon proper, you need to assemble your party by rolling seven Party Dice. Your party can ultimately include clerics, fighters, mages, thieves, champions, and scrolls, all depicted appropriately on the dice via painted debossed faces. Another player (or you can do it yourself when playing solo) takes on the roll of the Dungeon Lord and rolls a different set of dice to create oppositions in each level of the dungeon, based on the respective dungeon floor, and these can be monsters, potions, treasures, or dragons. You then use your Party Dice to defeat the monsters or take treasures and potions and decide if you want to push forward to the next level, knowing you won’t get any more dice for your party (unless an ability helps with that) while the Dungeon Lord gets to roll more. If you can’t go any further, you return to the tavern to rest. At the end of three delves, you add up your total amount of experience points to see who won, or, if playing by your lonesome, just feel really good about how you did regardless.

The tricky part about each delve and deciding to go further or retiring to the pub for some mead and meat off the bone is dragons. Each time you roll the dice and a dragon comes up, you put that dragon die aside in an area called the “Dragon’s Lair”. Once you get three dragon dice in there, you must fight the dragon after dealing with the main set of enemies. To take down the dragon, the player needs to use three different types of companion party dice; if they can’t, they are forced to flee back to the tavern and end their turn, gaining no experience points. Generally speaking, most teams aren’t able to deal with a dragon until their third and final run, so it’s best to avoid early on.

Dungeon Roll is at once both a simple and straightforward game, but also confusing and unclear in spots. I re-read the instructions several times and even watched a YouTube video or two before playing once, but still don’t feel 100% confident I know what to do rules-wise in every scenario. I’ve played it solo and competitively against Melanie, and both formats are enjoyable and come with their own strategies for success. I do wish the rulebook elaborated more on some of the rules or provided example scenarios of what to do and when. For instance, I still am not sure what the point of sacrificing a party die for a potion that brings back a single party die. I guess that’s for if one really wanted a champion before on to the next dungeon floor. Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable experience that is easy to travel with and full of replayability. The art on the hero avatar cards, done by Ryan Johnson, is stylish and cool, easily standing shoulder to shoulder with other card-based fantasy games like Magic: The Gathering and Lords of Waterdeep, and there is a good breakdown of genders and races across all the classes.

If you know of any other single-player board/dice games similar to Dungeon Roll, please, by all means, leave me some recommendations in the comments below. I’m up to try anything, so long as the game itself isn’t made up of a thousand tiny individual pieces that need to be hand-painted to provide personality and the rulebook is not longer than Bone‘s total page count. Oh, and I already have a copy of Cthulhu Dice. Otherwise, suggest away.

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Watch Shantae whip and save Sequin Land from evil pirates

gd impressions shantae pirate's curse

I’ve never played a Shantae game, so I thought that, naturally, the best place to start is with Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, the third game in the series. Naturally. Look, it’s the only one I have in my entire collection, and I’d rather start somewhere than deal with the silly impairment in my brain that demands I begin all videogame series at the very start and only play through them one after the other, completing each one as fully as possible to truly get the ultimate gaming experience. It’s an exhausting, never-ending battle that I’d love to watch crumble and blow away in the wind, but that day is not yet on the horizon. Or is it? I mean, this is a small chip in the mountain, but I am at least taking action.

The story in Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse sure is something, and I’ll do my best to get all the whimsical details right. So, Shantae is adjusting to life as a human post-genie, but wakes up to the sound of cannon fire one morning. Turns out, Scuttle Town is being taken over by the Ammo Baron, who, after a brief scuffle, reveals that he purchased the town from Mayor Scuttlebutt and is legally now its new mayor. Shantae’s arch-nemesis Risky Boots accuses her of robbing her of henchmen and other valuable items, but now they are teaming up to take on the Pirate Master, a powerful evil tyrant who is attempting to revive himself while simultaneously placing a curse on many of the world’s critters. Yeah, sure. To stop this all from happening, Shantae needs to destroy a specific number of dens of evil because videogames.

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is one of those Metroidvania, 2D action side-scrollers you have all probably heard about by this point in time, though I’m still having a hard time deciding if it is more Metroid or more Castlevania. Its whimsical story and goofy sense of humor makes it hard to place in either category, plus those sultry sprite animations. Instead of whipping a whip at enemies, Shantae whips her hair with extreme force. She can also jump, dash backwards, perform a super kick, and fire a pistol shot, resulting in a versatile action heroine capable of handling whatever is thrown at her, whether it be frog fish, wetmen, or cacklers. Basically, this is all one needs to complete dungeon puzzles and open up new areas of the world to explore. You also have an inventory, and this is where potions, monster milk, and bento boxes go, all of which are easily accessible via the touchscreen on the Wii U gamepad…though I prefer to leave it on the map screen for quick navigation.

So far, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a good platformer that I am playing in short bursts, like between big moments in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or while waiting for that latest Nintendo Direct to start. There’s always progress to be made and, if not, I’m okay grinding for money so I can purchase new moves for Shantae. Though I am finding the number of enemies that magically pop up/appear right before Shantae and damage her to be ultra annoying. Also, in the second level, there is a sequence that involves carrying Shantae’s zombie friend Rottytops through a monster-infested forest where a single collision means death. It mixes up the gameplay, but the penalty for messing up and ramp in difficulty is surprisingly, especially so early on in the game.

I’ve put in under two hours so far into Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, and the Internet is telling me that it is about eight hours or so to complete the main campaign, with a few more to boot if one wants to gather all the squid hearts and hidden collectibles. Here’s hoping I stick with it a bit longer to see credits roll because I am enjoying it though it is not the second coming of Super Metroid. I’m not sure if anything ever will be.

Get to ghostly work in Murdered: Soul Suspect

You might not have ever guessed it considering I’ve never really said a word about it, but Murdered: Soul Suspect is a game I’ve been genuinely curious about since its release. Which, um, was way back in 2014. Y’know, when cars began to fly, entire meals were in a pill, and aliens visited us peacefully to share all the knowledge of every galaxy ever. I remember it well. It’s got all the trappings that I often enjoy in my digital entertainment–ghosts, a murder mystery, lots of collectibles, an emphasis on exploration and not combat, and playing detective. It’s kind of like the Blackwell series of point-and-click adventure games on a bigger budget.

Murdered: Soul Suspect is all about once-criminal, now-cop Ronan O’Connor, who is killed off immediately at the start of the game–major spoiler alert!–as he hunts down the elusive serial killer known as “The Bell Killer”. The game takes place in a fictionalized version of the American town Salem, which is famous for its seaport and burning witches. Anyways, for some reason, Ronan returns as a ghost. His long-dead wife, Julia, also in spirit form, says that the only way he can join her on the other side is by solving the Bell Killer mystery. Sure, sweetie. Will do. I mean, that’s what I was trying to do before I died so I might as well keep on keeping on. Also, I might want to see what is up with that creepy ghost girl.

The gameplay in Murdered: Soul Suspect is both simple and linear though there is some room to explore at your leisure, but that’s only if you want to find all the collectibles, which I totally did. You navigate ghost Ronan around town, and since he is physically body-less, you can pass through walls and other solid objects, so long as they aren’t blessed. There’s also some contrived reasons that Ronan can’t enter buildings with doors that are closed, but I don’t remember the exact phrasing. Your search to unravel the Bell Killer mystery will take you to a church, an apartment building, a graveyard, a mental hospital, and so on. More or less, you walk around an environment, looking for clearly identified clues, and Ronan has some ghostly abilities up his see-through sleeve to help in this endeavor, such as teleportation and possession. Each area has a specific number of clues to collect to progress through the level and the story, and they are found and put together in a way similar to L.A. Noire‘s investigation sequences, except you are not trying to catch people in a lie or hopping to and fro various locations.

The story is entertaining enough, but fairly straightforward, and that’s including the twists, which are not difficult to see coming. Ronan befriends a young, troubled girl called Joy, who is a medium and able to interact with ghosts, and she is, without a doubt, the best part of all of Murdered: Soul Suspect. Eventually, you’ll learn about why the Bell Killer is targeting his victims and how Salem’s history fits into everything. Much like an episode of Criminal Minds or Law & Order, the game steers you towards a specific person as your suspect right until the very end.

There’s been some talk recently about playing detective in games and what ways work and what ways don’t. For sure, Murdered: Soul Suspect does not work, but I’m not mad about it. I didn’t come to it for that one aspect. Still, honestly, the game constantly felt worried that I wouldn’t get the answer right, which occasionally lead to me overthinking things. Take for instance one of the earlier optional “Unfinished Business” cases in which Ronan helps a young female ghost figure out how she was killed and what happened to her body. I scoured the apartment of a cranky old couple until I found all the clues I could, but two of the clues needed to be drawn directly from the old man and woman, respectively, and to do that, you needed to select a clue you already found to influence their train of thought. I assumed the “gardening tools” or “newspaper clipping” would have sufficed, but all both needed was the initial inquiry about a missing girl that started this whole thing off. It felt strange and wrong and that all my years of watching police procedures was for naught.

Some other quibbles because I’m me. First, while I can’t resist picking up every single collectible shining on the ground, I do wish many of the item’s descriptions had voice-over work so that I could continue to explore my surroundings while learning about what I picked up. Instead, you have to read a small, somewhat uninteresting paragraph of text for each one, and I eventually stopped doing this altogether. Second, the game gives you a lot of tools, but not the freedom to do much with them, such as using poltergeist to affect tangible objects, but only when needed to distract a guard in one specific sequence. You can also possess a cat, but only when possessing a cat is vital to getting somewhere high up. Lastly, I too suffered from the “Investigate the War Room” bug, which stayed as my current objective until the end of the game, but thankfully I was able to remember where to go next as I basically played through Murdered: Soul Suspect in a few multi-hour bursts and it’s not too difficult to figure out where to go next.

I enjoyed Murdered: Soul Suspect quite a bunch even though it is far from perfect, but it does sadden me to know that Airtight Games is no more and so a sequel, a chance to improve on the lackluster detective work or zero-fun combat scenarios with demons. The only other game from Airtight Games that I’ve played is Quantum Conundrum, though I walked away from it once the puzzles became too complicated. Oh well. Not everything can be as easy as a ghost going into someone’s body, peeking at their computer screen, and then manipulating their thoughts based on this information to have them do exactly what you want to move the case forward.

Harvesting gelatinous poop in Slime Rancher is pretty gooreat

I’ve had my eye on Slime Rancher for some slime now. Er, I mean time. Honestly, I will try my hardest to keep the number of puns in this post to a minimum, but there’s no guarantee. I just can’t help myself. Right, I first saw it being played on one of Giant Bomb‘s Unprofessional Fridays many moons ago and thought it looked ultra cute and fun, but knowing that it was in Early Access at the time kept me from actually digging into it. With so many games in my collection that are finished and still unplayed, I prefer to wait for the completed project–well, as completed as anything can be in this digital age of ours with patches and updates and game-changing DLC–before consuming.

Okay, let’s get to it because the sun is rising, the roostros are making noise, and those rock slimes won’t feed themselves. In Slime Rancher, you play as Beatrix LeBeau who has moved a thousand light years away from Earth to the “Far, Far Ranch” to make herself rich by farming…slimes. Her main tool in this endeavor is the vacpack, a vacuum-like/jetpack device that can be used to suck up slimes/other items and eject them. On your farm, you can build pens and corrals to hold slimes and other animals, feeding them their favorite food and collecting valuable plorts from their bodies, which you then sell for a profit, so long as the market prices board shows them up for the day. Also, I think the developer recently said they aren’t poop, but they are totally slime poops.

So, here’s the cycle: you head out into the wild, collect some slimes you want to keep at home, and return to build a housing pen for them. Then you must feed them what they like, whether it be a vegetable, fruit, or meat, taking care to not mix too many different slimes together because you could create a tar slime, which has the ability to demolish your ranch swiftly and unapologetically. Collect the plorts, sell the plorts, buy upgrades to your vacpack or access to new areas, and the cycle repeats anew until you hit a wall, which is usually in the form of lack of money or specific plorts or even where to go next (hint: keys unlock doors). You can totally stay close to your farm and earn decent money by rinsing and repeating certain actions, but the pull to go deeper into the unknown is ultra strong.

Exploration is a key element to Slime Rancher‘s loop, with myself discovering just a wee bit more each time I play. Early on, you’ll come across things you can’t solve, such as numerous treasure pods, and other things that are solvable, such as gigantic slimes that won’t budge, but the solution is left to you to figure out. Which is kind of nice, in this day and age of holding hands. The Slimepedia, the in-game guide full of details about slimes, environments, and other issues, is essential for learning how to get the most out of your day and creatures. Still, navigating to and fro is somewhat tedious, though one will get access to teleporters much later in the game, and your limited amount of inventory space leads to tough calls, knowing you can’t take everything back with you. You also have the option to upgrade your health and how much your jetpack can let you soar, which will open up more previously unreachable areas.

Slime Rancher is a peaceful, calming experience at times, but one without clear direction. I know I previously praised that the game doesn’t hold your hand, but that’s different then general steering. Story bits are sprinkled throughout via e-mails and digital notes scattered out in the wild, but they are not very interesting or give you any reason to care about Beatrix, these strange folk sending her messages, or whoever the heck H is supposed to be. And that’s a shame, especially when it comes to Beatrix, because she turns out to be just a vessel for you to move around inside the game and suck up gooey monsters with and not an interesting character whatsoever, which is a big ol’ bummer, as I really dig her hair color and style. Also, when I first started playing, there was no map, which made exploration far away from your home base somewhat tough, but that has since been added in via a free update, with more changes and features still to come.

At this point, I’ve done a number of milestone thingies, but still don’t feel close at all to calling Slime Rancher complete. For instance, I’ve unlocked the science laboratory area, which really expands your options when it comes to choosing where you put slime plorts and crafting materials and how you spend your resources. Basically, you can purchase item blueprints for machinery or cosmetic dressings for your farm, and then collect the required materials needed for each item to construct it. This is also where you gain access to teleporters. So, the decisions now come down to whether I want money or fun gizmos that can get me rarer ingredients, which is always a tough call. Personally, I just want to fill my farm with tabby slimes and have them bounce around and bomp me on nose repeatedly. I’ve also opened some cryptically locked doors…but to what end, I know not.

I’d write more, but all of my quantum slimes just teleported out of their corral and are quickly making their way to my massive collection of stony hens, eyes wide and hungry. Gotta go!

Some collectibles are better than others, but these stink

worst collectibles to collect rain gd post

There’s no shame in saying it, but I like collecting things. Both in real life and via my digital, interactive entertainment. That’s not to say I’m a hoarder, but if you give me a list of items existing somewhere out there, I’m most certainly going to try my darnedest to find them all and happily cross each one off. This most likely stems back to my younger days, on family vacations in Avalon, NJ. Besides playing a lot of Yahtzee by the swimming pool, I signed up for every scavenger hunt offered by our hotel that I could, and these often involved finding innocuous items like a specific type of seashell, a pair of sunglasses, and so on. I have fond if fuzzy memories of running around the hotel grounds like a maniac, looking for things and screaming with joy when they were found.

That said, as a player of videogames, sometimes finding items is not fun. Yeah, I know. What a hot take. Personally, I don’t need to be told specifically where each collectible is on the map, like in later Assassin’s Creed titles where you can just purchase these waypoint symbols from a shop. I prefer discovering them myself, but I also like knowing, generally, how many are in an area or which ones I’ve already found. Some record-keeping is vital, that way I don’t need to take mental notes as I pick up each shimmery doodad. The fear of leaving an area for good and suspecting I missed something is enough to lock my feet in the dirt.

Also, while not required, I greatly enjoy when the collectibles contain something else to them other than being a thing you gnab, such as some bit of additional in-game lore. Like in Tomb Raider and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, you find a thing, say a rusty knife, and that’s a collectible for sure, but you also have to interact with it and discover a hidden symbol to bring out story details. The collectible becomes more than just an object to pocket. Heck, at least collecting all those miscellaneous gizmos in Tom Clancy’s The Division got me some sweet, colorful outfits.

Because of recent actions, I’ve decided to put my brain to the task of coming up with a bunch of collectibles that absolutely stink. These are either not fun to find, do nothing for the player in the end, or maybe cover both of these issues. Regardless, boo to them, and boo to me for attempting to collect (some of) ’em. It’s a skill in others that I greatly admire, the ability to walk by these shiny sprites and polygons and not even care. Teach me how.

Gears of War – COG tags

COG tags are a mainstay of the Gears of War series, but they only become easier to track and find starting in Gears of War 2, which introduced the war journal, a sort of in-game notebook for keeping tabs on a number of things. However, for the first Gears of War, all you get is an X out of Y line when you pause the game. That’s it. I beat the game back at the end of 2013, with something like one-third of the COG tags found.

Recently, I glanced at the Achievements list to see if there was anything I could potentially pop before deleting the game from my Xbox One for forever and saw that two were related to finding the rest of the hidden thingamajigs. Alas, I basically had to follow a video guide to find each one, level by level, because I had no memory of the ones I had already picked up. Also, barely nothing happens when you bend down to grab these COG tags save for a less-than-impression sound cue. Obviously, this was early on in both the franchise and console generation, and figuring out how to implement collectibles was still in a nascent stage.

L.A. Noire – golden film reels

I’d have to go back and confirm this, but for some reason I feel really strongly that I only ever came across one of these 50 gold film canisters scattered about L.A. Noire‘s sprawling Los Angeles. They all contain names of films from the 1940s and 1950s. That’s cool. However, the problem is that they are extremely well-hidden. Maybe too well. In my search for hopping into the driver’s seat of every car in the game, 95 in total, another stinker of a collectible of sorts, I thought I explored a good chunk of the map. I guess not. I have no idea if finding all 50 golden film reels does anything for Cole Phelps and his ultimate destiny. It’d be cool if you could take these reels back to the police station and watch a few scenes during your coffee breaks, but I’m sure the licensing around something like that would be nightmarish.

Rain – lost memories

This blog post’s origins began with Rain, a game I completed on the first day of 2016. The collectibles in Rain are in the form of lost memories that the player can find to learn more about the young boy’s past. That’s fine and dandy, and there are 24 in total to collect, but here’s the sick kicker–these only are available to find after beating the game. Also, these only appear once you are in the exact location, which means you can’t spy them off from a distance; you have to know exactly where they are to start.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I burned my lunch hour to collect them all of them in a single go, following an online guide and abusing the checkpoint system so that I did not, in fact, have to play through the entire game again. Sorry, Rain–you have some great things going for you, but you are not that amazing or varied of an experience to go through again simply to now be able to collect floating orbs that give you the slimmest of slim story details to a story fairly slim on details to begin with. Ugh.

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga – Blue Minikits

Speaking of ugh, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Here’s the thing. I’m totally and 100% completely used to collecting a number of things in all the LEGO videogames, from red bricks to gold bricks to characters to studs and so on. That’s just part of the flow, of going through levels and seeing what you can’t grab just yet, returning with the right characters/powers to pave the way. It’s been like this since day one. However, recently, Melanie and I worked our way through LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, and it truly was like going back in time.

As part of our climb to hit 100% completion, we had to find 10 blue minikits in every single level. Sounds tedious, but not tough. Except it is because there is a time limit, and sometimes missing one blue minikit means replaying the whole thing over. You are also not able to use any cheats, which means having to deal with enemies while frantically scouring the scene for blue minikits. Most are hidden somewhat in the open, and others are dastardly wedged behind objects in the environment. The hardest level, without a doubt, was “Speeder Showdown,” where you kind of need luck on your side to progress swiftly and the extra five minutes was not enough. Took us multiple attempts, but the job is done, and, as far as I know, this type of gameplay hasn’t shown up in other LEGO titles.

The Last of Us – All of Them

Amazingly, there are four types of collectibles to hoard in The Last of Us. Specifically, 30 Firefly pendants, 14 comic books, 85 artifacts, and 12 training manuals that improve your crafting skills and such. I’m pretty sure only the last set has any impact on gameplay, and the remainder are just things for Joel to bend down, pick up, and pocket away for no other reason than to give you something to do in-between moving from a safe space to an area full of Cordyceps-inspired monsters. A few help flavor the world, for sure.

Okay, I just loaded up the game–evidently, I found 95 of 141 as of when I last played, which is way more than I initially assumed. Not sure why it felt so low in my mind, but maybe I was thinking of Trophies, which the game is stingy with. Oh well. Either way, these are pretty obscurely hidden throughout the game, and the artist in me really wanted to be able to open the comic books and read a few pages instead of just staring at the covers.

I know for a fact there are many more that I’m not touching on, like the flags from the original Assassin’s Creed, score pieces from Eternal Sonata, and kissing 50 women from The Saboteur.

That said, I’d like to know what collectibles gave you the most grief. Join the conversation below in the comments.

My Laptop Hates These Games – August 2017

Hi, everyone. One of my goals for 2015–yup, sadly, still working on promises from yesteryears because that’s the kind of special slacker I am–was to come up with a new feature for Grinding Down, and it only took me about eight or nine months into 2017 to figure out what I wanted though it does kind of go hand in hand with resolution #3 for this year about clearing out some of my Steam backlog. Either way, I done did it.

Welcome to My Laptop Hates These Games, wherein I take a real short glance at games I tried to run on my less-than-steller ASUS laptop from 2010-ish, which is totally not built to play big games, but has, in the past, been fine with things like Broken Age, Transistor, and Gone Home. I was even able to run meatier operations like Red Faction: Armageddon and Bulletstorm, just with the settings turned super low. Some games operate better than others, and some simply don’t run at all. At least through this feature, I’ll find out if they work or don’t work sooner than later, and my goal is to present to you the exact experience I had, from hitting the executable to deleting all the files.

Okay, let’s dig in.

Maui

I’ve never even played a single second of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker–I know, shame on me–but I already completely understand that this is the look and feel Maui is going for in its execution. This is a free action-adventure game based on Hawaiian mythology, which is something unique to the videogames playing field. I got through the tutorial just fine, learning how to switch my faith to different gods for unique powers, but then the mission where you need to find a banana brought everything to a crawl stuck inside a glacier covered in molasses. Unfortunately, there are no settings to change things, and so this got deleted without ever finding that lost banana.

Escape the Game: Intro

Another freebie on Steam that I probably installed because it kind of looked like Thomas Was Alone. Unfortunately, I can’t say if Escape the Game: Intro played the same way or not because, after seeing the title screen and clicking start, the game does a fake crash à la Fez…ironically leading to a real crash to desktop. I was able to replicate this three times before I gave up. I guess in my own special way I did manage to escape the game.

My Time at Portia

My Time at Portia looks real fine. My love and fascination for quirky farming simulations continues to grow, having enjoyed Stardew Valley and Slime Rancher a whole bunch recently, and this one looks to be almost a mixture of the two styles. It’s set in a post-apocalypse setting, but a splashy, kaleidoscopic one. The player starts a new life in a town on the edge of civilization called Portia by building a workshop and creating helpful items with relics from the past. The goal of the game is to make the workshop as big as possible…I think. Even with the graphic settings turned to “fastest,” this was next to impossible to play. I knew I was in for a rocky time when the in-game cutscene staggered forward at a crawl. Gaining control of the main character was worse. Here’s hoping that this too comes to consoles like similar titles as of late.

My Laptop Hates These Games takes a quick look at the titles that kind of, only sort of run or don’t run at all on my ASUS laptop. Here’s hoping that some of these, specifically the ones that looked interesting, come to console down the road. Y’know, those gaming machines where nothing ever goes wrong and every game runs perfectly without ever crashing or freezing or glitching out. Maybe I’ll play these there or in 2056 when I get a new laptop that is, even at that point, still somewhat obsolete.

Regency Solitaire’s prim and proper patience playing

I first fell into a Solitaire hole back in college, when I was working at Rowan University’s art gallery, which basically boiled down to me making sure nobody stole any pieces of art. Occasionally I had to throw down spackling paste to cover up some holes in the wall when an exhibition was over and we were prepping for the next one, but I mostly sat at the desk next to the front door, did homework or studied, and played time-killing games to kill time. Namely Snood, the board game Life with a co-worker, and…well, Solitaire.

No surprise here, but I have no memory of when Regency Solitaire from Grey Alien Games appeared in my Steam library, but that’s okay. I’m sure it came from a bundle. Anyways, after somewhat playing through Dark Heritage: Guardians of Hope together, I was on the search for something similar that my girlfriend and I could play together and thought this would be a good fit because it is both traditional enough for her tastes–a card game–and have modern videogame mechanics for me–buying upgrades, stacking combos. Plus, there’s a story. Yup, Solitaire with a story. That’s something you don’t come across every day.

Here’s that story, as best as I can sum it up–help Bella take charge of her own destiny, create the ballroom of her dreams, and fall in love with the better chap who is not named Mr. Bleakley. You’ll tour historic London, Brighton, and Bath in hopes of *ahem* playing your cards right and earning money to purchase vital upgrades, like fancy window curtains or a new fan to wear with that stunning blue dress. Also, you need to reclaim your family’s fortune or something. I don’t know. You play Solitaire with some twists, watch a static cutscene full of posh dialogue that isn’t too far off of a Downton Abbey episode, and repeat the process several more times. It’s not the most captivating tale ever spun, but I appreciate it being there nonetheless.

The Solitaire part of Regency Solitaire isn’t exactly one-to-one with the standard version everyone’s either played in real life on their bedroom floor or on computer, just killing time. Also, it’s not three card, spider, yukon, or any other crazy spin-off style. Instead, you have a small deck of cards and one card revealed to you. You can then either match it with the card above or below based on what is shown in the level, and the levels vary in terms of card placement and other issues, like some being hidden beneath a lock that will only go away if you find a key card first. If you can continue the string, say matching a six to a seven to an eight and back to a seven, go for it, because combos mean multipliers, which affects both how you do in the level and how much gold you earn at the end. To help with this endeavor, the game provides multiple power-ups, such as cupid’s bow, which can eliminate a single card on the playing field, and “wild” cards to help fill the gaps in combos without breaking your streak.

Each chapter is a total of ten hands long, and there are always specific goals to try to hit by the end, such as uncovering a hidden item, hitting a large combo chain, or getting three stars in a number of hands. Thankfully, if you aren’t happy with how a hand went, you can hit retry at the end and give it a go, something Melanie did often in her journey for perfect rounds. Oh, right–did I mention that she loved playing this? I think she might even go back through it later on the harder difficulty. Fine by me, because it’s on my profile, so I’ll get to enjoy all those hard-earned Achievements.

Look, Regency Solitaire is not going to blow your mind, but it’s a fun, often relaxing, often tense experience wrapped around some high-class dialogue from a stereotypical cast of opulent characters. It’s easy to just get lost in the Solitaire aspect, trying to keep those combos going and immediately jumping into the next ten hands to do even better or see what new twists are thrown your way. A glance at Grey Alien Games’ other titles show that they are mostly match-three puzzle games, so if you want something unique, by all means, start here. Just be prepared to lose several hours trying to find a six or four to clear out that final five in your hand.