Tag Archives: science

Hope your alchemy skills are strong enough for Sokobond

This may not surprise anyone, but my strongest classes in high school were English, art, and, uh, study hall. By that logic, my weakest classes were mathematics, science, and gym. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate things about math and science, as they are fundamental to life, but gym can seriously take a hike down a long, uneven road full of potholes, dog droppings, and ankle-biting snakes. Yes, yes…I was the kid in gym class that walked the mile, each and every time. Anyways, Sokobond is all about chemistry, and I dig it.

Hey, have you heard the one about a chemist who was reading a book about helium? He just couldn’t put it down. ::cymbal crash::

Well, Sokobond comes from Draknek, who you might remember was behind another puzzle game I played recently, specifically A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build, and is an elegantly designed puzzle game about chemistry. Yup, chemistry. Don’t worry–it doesn’t play like a homework assignment. It’s logical, minimalist, and crafted with love and science, full of fun facts that making completing each level worth it. All in all, Sokobond is a tricky puzzler that tasks players with pushing atoms around a stage to form molecules, and while that might sound simple, just like rolling snowballs to form snowpeople, it is more complicated due to certain rules and restrictions.

Sokobond does not feature a tutorial. and that’s a good thing. It invites you to immediately start experimenting, opening without explanation. sitting on a board of squares are three circles–two of them are red, each with an H displayed in its middle and with a single little orb orbiting it, and one is a blue O with two orbs. One of the Hs bears a dotted rather than solid circle, and you can move it around the board with the cursor keys. If you move a circle next to another and they both have orbs, they’ll bond together and an orb will disappear from each. A few moves later, you’ll have maneuvered each circle into a small cluster and discovered that the object is to remove all the orbs, leaving you with a little structure. Many will have already immediately worked out that the circles represent atoms; the H circles are hydrogen, the O is oxygen, and when you’ve put them all together you’ve made water (H2O).

Sokobond is quite varied, not your standard sliding puzzler that just repeats its one trick over and over, with levels divided into sets themed on different mechanics. For example, the first set introduces you to the concept of bonding; the next brings in a bond cutter, which divides molecules if you move their bonds over it. Further along, there’s a bond doubler, which uses an extra couple of orbs if they’re available on adjacent atoms. There’s also a rotation element, which can change a molecule’s shape if its form allows. In one level, these mechanics will be the main part of the solution, allowing you to manipulate your atoms with greater flexibility; in another, they’ll provide its core challenge, cutting a bond into parts when it looked like you had the whole thing solved. The difficulty naturally ramps up with the more mechanics to deal with, but it is never overwhelming or frustrating.

Evidently, Sokobond came into existence after Alan and Shang Lun met one another at GDC 2012 and realized they’d played and loved each other’s games. On the final evening of the conference, they decided to make “a quick four-hour jam game,” which, a year and a half later, turned into the game I’m talking about in this very blog post. There’s over 100 levels to go through, and the music and sound design by Allison Walker is blissful and soothing.

You don’t need to know much about science to enjoy Sokobond‘s puzzles, but I guarantee you’ll appreciate it a bit more if you know what type of compound you are trying to create from the start. Still, I’ll never be able to buzz on on Jeopardy! and answer anything science-related or about the periodic table confidently, but I can totally slide cells around a small board to make compounds.

Learning about gross insects with Aniscience’s help


As a young boy in a public school on the East Coast in southern New Jersey, I had my standard fill of edutainment games, such as The Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. These were interactive experiences designed both to educate and entertain. Like, now I know that dysentery is a terrible thing for anyone to get, extremely detrimental to one’s colon and health, and that it will severely impact your chance of seeing the end of your covered wagon’s journey to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. But enough about the highs and lows of 19th century pioneer life because I’m here to talk about bugs. Flowers, too. But mostly those creepy-crawlies that, from my point of view, exist solely to freak me out and slither into my open mouth as I sleep.

Aniscience is a fine piece of edutainment, performing both actions of entertaining and informing well enough, though I do wish there was a little more interaction from the player. Well, easier interaction, to be honest. To start, it’s still in development. You can basically play a demo of the first level, and there are promises of more areas to come. Ultimately, Aniscience is a cutesy, mouse-driven journey about discovering nature, its laws, and the principal species of plants and animals. Or, in the case of the demo level, all things that live in the dirt. Y’know, insects galore.

Here’s how one plays Aniscience. You control the tiny brown mouse, either with the arrows keys or, I assume, if on some kind of touch-based device, with your figure. This cinnamon-brown mouse by the way reminds artistically of the characters from Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and I’m perfectly okay with. Anyways, by lightly dragging a magnifying glass over a selected object (animal or plant), you can get a page of facts on the screen. These are real, honest-to-science facts, too. I mean, look at all these common shrew details:


Other than that, you can click (or tap) on the specific animal/plant in question to watch it animate slightly. That’s basically the experience, backed by a soft, friendly soundtrack of happy keyboard notes, as well as birds chirping. It’s inviting, simplistic, and visually pleasing. I still wish there was more interaction, like maybe comparing different bugs and flowers to one another or somehow modifying the scene, like adding in food or a predator and seeing how things change. Also, having to drag a magnifying glass over each and every thing you want to examine is tiresome. I get that the developers probably wanted a very straightforward control system, but I’d have preferred having the examine on one mouse click and the animation on another. It’s not a deal breaker.

Aniscience is a pretty fun way to learn about nature, even if some of the bugs are super gross. You are rewarded with exploring by learning about a new critter or flower, and while that might not sound immediately satisfying…it is. I wish you could collect these fact cards in some kind of journal, that way you could both have a goal of finding them all in one area and can easily pull them up later to view without having to go back to the specific thing in question and re-magnifying glass them. Again, not deal-breakers. I’m viewing this more from the “Is it fun as a game?” perspective, where I’m sure others coming to it just for education purposes aren’t even thinking about stuff like this. I mean, again, that mouse is pretty dang adorable.

Meet The Sink’s numerous personality modules from Fallout: New Vegas

Without a doubt, Old World Blues is the best DLC add-on for Fallout: New Vegas so far. It has stellar writing, wonderful voice acting, memorable characters, and a decently sized map to explore as you please. It stands a fraction taller than Point Lookout for delivering a great, bite-sized Fallout experience, even if at times it could be a little too chatty, a little too difficult, and a little too reliant on energy weapons for success. Thankfully, my current character Kapture was already a 100 in the Energy Weapons skill before heading over to Big Mountain to be swarmed by Roboscorpions and frenzied Securitrons. One might also want to consider a character high in Speech, as there are a lot of, um, things to speak with, and yes, I said things, not people. Let’s get into that.

All My Friends Have Off Switches is a faux main story quest in Old World Blues; it doesn’t necessarily have to be completed, but I feel like many gamers will go after it, and it mostly runs parallel with the true main story quest, making it easier to pick up some–not all–of the personality modules as they go mucking about the Big Empty. You are basically tasked with finding holotapes that contain personalities for specific items in The Sink, which is your home-away-from-home for now. Installing these personalities will bring the items to life, and after much talking, you’ll learn what benefits they can offer. There are 10 personalities to unearth, as you’ll soon see below:

#1 – The Sink Central Intelligence Unit is a human-accessible computer responsible for Big MT’s data storage. It can repair your weapons and armor up to 100, switch off/on the other personalities in The Sink, and act as a traveling merchant, with a decent stock of items. It has a thin British accent.

#2 – The Sink’s Sink is a nice, if a bit OCD sink. Obsessed with cleanliness, the Sink is also upgradable, allowing the Courier to bottle his or her own water if they happen to have empty bottles. I never took advantage of this, but I bet it’s great for players on Hardcore difficulty.

#3 – This Auto-Doc is actually a prototype built by Dr. Mobius many moons ago. It seems to have a military-like personality, and it can provide the Courier with the following benefits: a haircut, facial reconstruction, implants of varying price, switch out brains, spines, and hearts, and change the player’s traits (only once).

#4 – This personality is a little creepy. Or should I say…seedy? The Biological Research Station is a computer mainframe that is capable of cloning and planting dried seeds that will harvest after three days. It also refers to the Courier as “baby” and makes way too many sexual references. Tara was especially perturbed.

#5 – Blind Diode Jefferson is The Sink’s talking jukebox, but don’t expect much music outta it. You might even say it’s got the blues…the old world blues. By finding special holotapes, Blind Diode Jefferson can update the Sonic Emitter with new traits and bonuses.

#6 – The Book Chute likes to eradicate sedition. What does that mean? Well, bring it lots of pre-war books, and the chute will wipe them clean, readying them for…um, that I didn’t get to discover. Checking online tells me that you’ll be able to make your own skill books with the right amount of blank books and specific items. That’s neat!

#7 – Light Switch 01 is a very seductive light switch that, while appearing to be sentient, is actually not. There seems to be some conflict between it and the light switch in the other room.


#8 – Not much different from Light Switch 01, but a few special dialogue options come up with Light Switch 02 if you’ve got the right perks on ya.


#9 – Oh, Muggy! You make yourself so hard to love, and yet you are so lovable. It is a neurotic, miniature Securitron that is obsessed with collecting coffee mugs. I get that. I suffer from the very same diseases. Basically, Muggy can turn coffee mugs, tin plates, and coffee pots into miscellaneous items perfect for using at the crafting bench. It also loves to curse. Swoon.

#10 – Last, but certainly not least, is The Sink’s evil-minded Toaster. This thing wants to burn more than just sliced bread, and it’s not afraid to tell you that. It’s special perk is that it can heat up any weapons composed of space-age Saturnite material, as well as help make extra small energy cells and microfusion cells. This very same toaster was originally cut from Fallout 2.

Whew. That’s a lot of ‘bots. I whole-heartedly recommend you speak with them often and deeply, exhausting as much of their dialogue options as you can. They are all very unique, and given that each (save for the light switches, I guess) offer some kind of benefit or bonus, it’s worth the effort. I found The Sink to be a wonderful, personified hub for my time spent in the Big Empty, and maybe now even for a main playthrough, as it features plenty of storage space, reloading and crafting benches, and helpful robots at arms’ length. For playthrough #4, I’m definitely going to try to do Old World Blues as early as possible (though the game itself warns the Courier that it is meant only for players level 15 and higher, and I struggled at times even at level 28 through 30, so, uh, eep) just to get such a kick-ass base. It definitely trumps Lucky 38 or Victor’s shack.

But there ya go. Hope you liked this little rundown of the ten robotic personality modules you’ll install in The Sink. Good luck finding all their holotapes!

Old World Blues is all talk, no action so far, and that’s fine

I promptly downloaded Old World Blues for Fallout: New Vegas last night when I got home from work. Once MasterChef was finished and poor, lovable Giuseppe was out the door, I loaded up my most recent character Kapture, a dude that loves Energy Weapons and that looks like he’d be right at home watching children playing at a local park from inside his dark, seedy van, and headed to the specific map marker to get things rolling. To start Old World Blues, the Courier must make his way to a drive-in movie theatre, wherein a broken robot satellite will show them a movie. Then it’s lights out, and waking up elsewhere, with strange surgical cuts all over your body.

You’ll make your way inside a large science research building called the Sink (or is it the Think Tank?) at the Big Empty, eventually finding a bunch of whacky robots. The leader, Dr. Klein, will then explain the situation, with colorful commentary from the other local bots peppered throughout. You’re brainless. And have no heart or spine. That’s why you feel so weird, so calm and uncaring. These robots cut those organs out of you, and it’s not entirely clear how you’re, uh, still alive, but whatever, it’s a videogame, and that’s certainly some strong motivation there for completing this newest DLC: recover your brain, heart, and spine. Also, steal some technology from their nemesis Dr. Mobius.

What’s most notable about this DLC is that the first 30 to 45 minutes are spent talking. With crazy robots. Since I don’t ever skip dialogue, a good chunk of my playtime last night was spent with the controller resting gently on my lap, only picking it up occasionally to make a speech selection. Even after the main chunk of talking is dead and done, and the Courier has his main mission, he/she can still explore the Sink and Think Tank to talk further with these deranged robots. I exhausted every dialogue option, gaining three to four more additional sidequests from this. Doctor Dala is extremely creepy, and I was pleasantly surprised–as was Tara–to discover that Doctor O is voiced by a true cartoon doctor…Dr. Venture‘s James Urbaniak!

So far, Old World Blues has some of the strangest and funniest writing to date for the series, with the word penis popping more than you’d ever expect, and drowning in it–the dialogue, not the penises–first and foremost for the DLC is not the worst thing ever. Though I am looking forward to exploring outside the Sink/Think Tank and maybe shooting something. Maybe.

All my greatest critics in the Mojave Wasteland think I’m a hack

Still working my way through Fallout: New Vegas – Dead Money. I’ve realized one reason why this DLC is so dang slow, and that is because, if you’re playing anything like I am, you are sneaking all over the Villa, careful to scan every square of ground for traps, careful to hear that terrible beeping, careful to not end up taking on two or more Ghost People at once by yourself. I can’t ever really imagine moving fast through this one, and I even know what to expect (at least for the first half of things), but I will forever err to the side of caution.

Anyways, thanks to some locked doors and unfriendly turret systems, I was able to get this little pinger:

Hack the Mojave (15G): Hacked 25 terminals.

Woo, science! Actually, nah to that. I never tag science as a skill, and only did it because, just like in Fallout 3, knew there would be an Achievement tied to it. And thank goodness this one wasn’t just a carbon copy of the Achievement in the former game. That was called Data Miner and required the player to hack 50 terminals. Fifty…I swear I don’t even think that many exist in the Mojave Wasteland (and Sierra Madre section). It really felt like slim pickings in terms of hacking computers. At least the science skill came in handy a few more times during my playthrough, but otherwise…it’s not very exciting. And I kind of wished Obsidian had updated the minigame for hacking a terminal; it’s too easy to just save before you hack in case you mess up, and obviously they don’t love it immensely otherwise there would’ve been a whole ton more throughout our travels.

Well, in the end, that’s another Achievement done for Fallout: New Vegas. Now to, uh, simultaneously confront and trap a certain someone in a certain something. Maybe the science skill will help me again? Maybe, baby.