Tag Archives: simulation

2018 Game Review Haiku, #14 – Robin

Three days, Robin’s life
With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Manage your dear time

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

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Unlock achievements in THOR.N, a dystopian job simulator

It’s no secret that I both like Achievements and completely understand how empty and hollow of a concept they are. That’s okay, I guess. To me, they exist as extra goals, things to try to do in a game to squeeze every little bit of life out of it before moving on to the next piece of digital entertainment. You might not get much within the game for collecting all the shiny doodads, but your Gamerscore will certainly grow. I’m scared to say that a society driven by things like Achievements might be interesting to see, and I suspect that those with fancier phones than I probably already have apps that reward you for doing mundane, menial tasks like eating breakfast, putting on pants, and taking your first steps of the day.

Well, THOR.N is a game kind of about that. In it, you wake up on your eighteenth birthday. This is a momentous day because now you can begin your true journey to citizenship. An excited and large, jelly baby-esque head attached to the wall tells you all this and even provides you with your first birthday present–50 credits. Woo. After this, your bedroom door is unlocked, and you can go into the next room to discover…a bunch of workstations. You must now begin working towards your citizenship by crafting uniforms, rations, and munitions. You gain credits for each job completed, which you can spend to buy another workstation or upgrade any that you’ve already unlocked. Each time you purchase an upgrade, you earn a skill point, which then adds to your citizenship level. Eventually, you can make the process automatic and watch the credits tick up with minimal effort on your part.

THOR.N is a clicker in disguise. The jobs you complete at the workstations are extremely simple, almost perfunctory. You click the button on the left, wait for the meter to fill, click the button in the middle, wait for the meter to fill, and then click the button on the right…yup, you guessed it, wait for the meter to fill. Still, it’s strangely satisfying to watch the process happen, and once the upgrades get big enough you won’t even need to touch the machine to get your credits. As all of this happens, you are growing your citizenship level and watching Achievement-like messages pop up on the screen to congratulate you on your merits. Which, ultimately, are not worth celebrating. I suspect that’s the point, highlighting your work as something greater than it is when, just by listening, you know there are many others out there doing exactly the same actions as you, all for the greater good, some of which make it, and some of which do not.

I like a lot of the story bits that THOR.N keeps to the side and doesn’t shine a light on. Clearly, this is a dystopian future. Despite the cheer, chipper voice of your robot overlord, something must have gone wrong to get to this place in society. There are “No Entry” signs emblazoned on the glass doors that lead to the outside world–if such a place even exists, as Prey taught me–and information terminals constantly show you how well other citizens are performing. The apartment is small, but full of details, like art and papers on the walls. Also, the ominous robot voice congratulating you on all your achievements occasionally sounds aggressive, with some bits even feeling like thinly veiled threats. At one point, I returned to my bedroom and tried to access the computer screen in there only to get firmly reprimanded and told never to touch that screen again. I never did. Once you reach a certain citizenship level, a new door unlocks, and you can proceed through it…only to suddenly finish the experience.

While the ending is both abrupt and unclear, I enjoyed THOR.N, especially its aesthetic, as well as when all three workstations were operating at full capacity and my credits were skyrocketing. It’s just so dang satisfying when everything is operating smoothly and efficiently, and I don’t know what that says about me. Of the few Humble Originals from the Humble Monthly Trove I’ve tried so far, all of which were once free but no longer are, I found this similar to how I felt after completing Hitchhiker: First Ride–good, not 100% sure I grokked everything that went down, and interested to know more. I’ll have to be a good citizen and keep my eyes open for whatever Advect Productions puts out next.

A batch of anticipated games for the year 2018

When you search the Internet for the keyword of “2018,” you get a lot of pictures of that number in big, bold font or images of cars. Hmm. However, when I look forward into this new year, I see only videogames. Eh, that’s not true. Totally not true. There’s a bunch of other things to see, related to life and love and liberty, but this Grinding Down blog of mine, creeping into its ninth year in action, despite the random dips into other topics, is mostly focused on digital entertainment, and so it is all eyes locked hard on the adventures I’m most interested in playing in two thousand great-teen. Oh, and I’m sure to have copious 2017 titles to catch up on as well, as well as ones from years past (I just started playing Wolfenstein: The New Order and, uh, StarTropics), dating all the way back to the birth of this very planet.

Naturally, we don’t know every single game coming out in 2018 just yet, but here’s a number of ’em that certainly have my attention.

Mineko’s Night Market

Mineko’s Night Market, an indie adventure from Meowza Games, is the first title from the young, two-person indie studio. The adventure title stars Mineko, a girl who takes on a job as a vendor in a weekly marketplace. With responsibilities ranging from collecting resources, crafting items to sell, participating in local events, and befriending customers around town, the game sounds like a much fuzzier take on Stardew Valley and Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale. Plus, that art style is to die for.

Release date: sometime in 2018

Staxel

Staxel is a sandbox farming game. Yup, I guess I can officially say that, after dumping hours into Stardew Valley and Slime Rancher, I like farming games. Well, so long as they aren’t too serious and actually about watching a crop grow from seed to final product over the course of several weeks. This one features voxel-based graphics, which are always cool. Remember Voxatron Alpha? Well, I do. Anyways, the general goal is to tend to your farm and work on the village by yourself. Or you can enlist the aid of your friends via online multiplayer to turn it into a thriving farmstead! I wonder if this will ultimately beat Stardew Valley to the multiplayer aspect and whether it’ll be the better experience. Time will tell.

Release date: January 2018

Ooblets

In the words of Glumberland, the game’s developer, “Ooblets is a farming, town life, and creature collection game inspired by Pokémon, Harvest Moon, and Animal Crossing. Manage your farm, grow and train your ooblets, run a shop, explore strange lands, battle wild ooblets and other ooblet trainers, and unlock the mysteries of Oob.” Yeah, that sounds great to me, and it also looks super-duper adorable, so I’m more than simply all in on this.

Release date: Sometime in 2018

Red Dead Redemption 2

Look, I like to poke fun at myself by constantly mentioning that I haven’t played the first Red Dead Redemption still, years after missing out on it during its year of release, so I might as well give up on that dream and place all my bets on the forthcoming Red Dead Redemption 2. I enjoyed a good amount of Grand Theft Auto V, but didn’t linger too long in the online multiplayer aspect, and I have to imagine that Rockstar will be implementing a number of features from that into this violent world of cowboys and the American frontier. I should probably also watch Westworld at some point. Just sayin’.

Release date: sometime in 2018

State of Decay 2

Much like the previous entry on this list, I also missed out on the original experience. That’s okay. From everything I gathered, State of Decay was cool, but somewhat flawed–technically and gameplay-wise–and so with this sequel now having some time to fester, I’m hopeful for a more focused, polished take on making ends meet in the zombie apocalypse. Also, all of this PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds of late is ultimately preparing me for survival among both the living and the dead. Or undead, if you want to get specific.

Release date: sometime in 2018

The Lord of the Rings LCG

I played so much Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game, an out-of-print collectible card game produced by Decipher, back in the early 2000s, and I miss it greatly. I miss the game, and I miss the crew I hung out with that played the game, and I miss that it, along with something called Magic: The Gathering, was always there to fill in the gaps, to kill time, to make memories. That said, Lord of the Rings LCG is not the same thing as that now forgotten friend, but it is an upcoming, free single-player and cooperative multiplayer card game based on one of my favorite things ever. It’s already on my Steam wishlist and going for the market dominated by the likes of Hearthstone.

Release date: Early 2018

Long Gone Days

Please do not confuse this with Days Gone, that open-world action-adventure game where you play as some generic-looking dude trying to survive in a world overrun by really fast, mindless, feral creatures that want to do you great harm. No thank you. Instead, Long Gone Days is a 2D modern-day character-driven RPG that combines elements from visual novels, shooters, and dystopian fiction. You play as Rourke, a soldier from an underground unrecognized country named “The Core”, after he’s deployed to a mission in Kaliningrad, Russia. There, he discovers the truth about the operation and decides to desert. It’s written, developed, and illustrated by Camila Gormaz, and I think it looks particularly neat.

Release date: February 2018

The Swords of Ditto

Here’s the quick summary: The Swords of Ditto is a compact action RPG that creates a unique adventure for each new hero of legend in the relentless fight against the evil Mormo. Uh-huh. The game’s core mechanic involves the legacy of the game’s playable heroes, kind of like in Rogue Legacy, and that’s all well and good, but I’m honestly coming to this for its art and animation over anything else.

Release date: sometime in 2018

Legendary Gary

Speaking of slick-looking art and animation, take a look at Legendary Gary. The titular character is evidently a mess, and he’s trying to become a better person. Gary spends his evenings playing Legend of the Spear, a fantasy adventure game in which the hero and his friends journey through strange lands and engage in hand-to-hand combat deadly creatures. Naturally, these battles take place on a hexagonal grid, and on each turn, all fighters act simultaneously. This means you must decide what action each member of your party will perform. Sounds like the game is split between this type of gameplay and dealing with Gary’s normal, everyday life. Also, Evan Rogers, the game’s developer, is a Giant Bomb fan, and that’s plain cool, duder.

Release date: early 2018

Knights and Bikes

Knights and Bikes, from Foam Sword and the second one on this being published by Double Fine (I’ll let you figure out which is the other one yourself), is a hand-painted action-adventure set on a British island in the 1980s. You’ll play as Nessa and Demelza, tough imaginative girls who are exploring the island in a Goonies-inspired fashion. Heeey, youuu guysss. Looks like the adventure will see them riding their bikes right into danger, seeking treasure, and solving ancient mysteries.

Release date: TBA

There you go, a whole batch. I fully expect more to pop up unexpectedly over the year because, alas, I can’t know about every single game coming into existence at any given moment.

What titles are you most looking forward to in the coming year? Speak up about ’em in great detail in the comments section below. Fill me in on the ones I’m not calling out. Share and enjoy.

You kind of control a pond’s ecosystem in Among Ripples

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One of my goals for 2017 is to chip away at my Steam library, and I’m using HowLongToBeat to help me determine where to start. Certainly not with Crusader Kings II, which the site claims is around 175 hours in total to see through to completion though I do what to give it a swing at some point after really enjoying the fun that was an old GBE Playdate.

Instead, I went with Among Ripples, estimated to eat up 19 minutes of my sweet, precious time. I think I ended up logging closer to 25 minutes before exiting out of the…experience and staring for a bit at my two cats, wondering where they’d fit into the whole survival of the fittest scheme. I actually think Pixie would last longer in the wild, hiding with all her might, while Timmy would totally walk up to a predator to lovingly rub his face on it. Ah, tiny domesticated lions.

There are no cats in Among Ripples, at least none that I could find. There is, however, an otter, and that made this slice of casual gaming all the more wonderful. Though I still really don’t know what it was. In descriptive terms, it’s a meditative ecosystem management simulator. You are the puppet master of a small pond, filling it with food and predators/prey, watching life unfold over the seasons. Basically, you add different creatures to the mix and see how everything interacts. I did this just fine, but kept expecting something more to happen beyond this, despite knowing that this was all there was to experience.

It’s an extremely simple slice of sandbox gaming. You can click on a few things to get life going and then sit back to take in the watercolored art and gentle, calming soundtrack. However, among all this niceness is the fact that nature is ruthless, and animals eat other animals. You must be prepared for this. They also do other things many might scoff at; one time, at the Philadelphia Zoo, I saw a giraffe drink another giraffe’s pee. Nature is surviving at all costs, whether we’re talking about reality or simulation.

Among Ripples is neat, but not enough. I understand that the goals are your own to set, and I watched an otter live through all the seasons, which is all I ever ask of otters, as well as saw a bunch of crayfish rot. I don’t plan to write a haiku review about it as I didn’t feel like it was technically something I completed, but rather dipped my toes in; sure, I could leave this up in the background one day and really watch the pond evolve, but I best move on. No worries though. To quote that eccentric, charming mathematician from Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” Just not in my pond going forward.

Happy Home Designer gently puts you to work

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I stopped playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf on May 5, 2014. That’s two days after my favorite villager Sylvia’s birthday. I missed her party. I meant to go all out and get her every gorgeous, pink item I could find, wrapping each up in special paper to make her day all the more memorable. Instead, I blanked and didn’t even show. With panicky fingers, I visited her only to discover her entire home in boxes, ready to be picked up and moved by a service of muscles. She was leaving me. I tried my everything to convince her to stay, but it was too late–she was unmovable. Or rather, completely movable.

It was hard to step away from Animal Crossing: New Leaf, a game which still to this day sits at the top of my Nintendo 3DS stats as my most played game, with only a few others creeping near it. And yet, Sylvia’s departure from my town, as well as her finally giving in and presenting me with her portrait only a few weeks before, unfolded right around the time my marriage was concluding. Two lives ending in unison, and me, standing still, scared and uncertain of what I could do. Thankfully, to help ease the nights, another game swooped in and stole all my attention.

Well, Happy Home Designer is not another full-blown Animal Crossing title, and that’s fine. I’m not ready to commit once more. Instead, it takes elements from the main series, specifically the home decoration aspect, and expands it into a full-time job for your character, who is no longer mayor of the town, but once again another employee of that nefarious rascal Tom Nook. As the newest designer at Nook’s Homes, you’re given the power to create homes, yards, and other buildings, inside and out, with the main goal of making your animal client friends happy. You can help out one client or building request from Isabelle per day–that’s in-game per day, not real life–and before you call it a night, you can spend Play Coins to study your handbook and acquire new blueprints, items, and other decorative thingies for future use.

For some people, decorating is not the siren’s call of the Animal Crossing series. They might prefer fishing and collecting bugs, selling beetles from the tropical island for a large amount of Bells, or doing all the community requests around your village. Or perhaps you really got into designing outfits. There’s also working at the cafe. I think the great thing about Animal Crossing is that it is wide open, and you can love what you love and go deep on it without completely pushing everything else out of the way. For instance, when my sister Jules was playing, she made a great effort to breed all the rarer flowers and enforced a strict “no running” rule when I’d visit her town.

For myself, I really enjoyed expanding and decorating my home, both in Animal Crossing: Wild World and Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I’ve gone to great strides to get rare furniture before. For the most part, I’d pick a theme for a room and work towards collecting items that were either officially part of the theme, like astro furniture only, or somehow related, like a meteor or toy rocketship to place in the corner. The struggle sometimes was finding all the pieces of furniture, which relied on the daily luck of the shop, the generosity of your neighbors, and whether or not you had a friend who could visit and dump everything you need at your tiny, pointy feet. Thankfully, Happy Home Designer gives you a large amount of the furniture objects to you right from the get-go, so you can attack your client’s house with all you have and not be restrained by things like missing lamps or using a chair that obviously clashes with the aesthetic.

Or, if you want, and this is something I don’t ever want, you can go against your client’s wishes and run amok in terms of design and feng shui. For instance, say a squirrel wants a forest-themed house, but you decide to fill it up with pink princess furniture, robots, and all things not related to the forest. As far as I can tell, the job will still get done, and the client might be okay with it. There doesn’t seem to be any penalty for going outside the box, but I prefer to accomplish what the buyer is paying for. I mean, you’ll still get something to eat if you order a hot dog and get a hamburger instead, but that doesn’t mean you’re one hundred percent satisfied with the course of action.

I’ll never stop moaning and groaning over the severe lack of Play Coin integration during the lifetime of the Nintendo 3DS, but the Animal Crossing series has at least tried here and there. In this one, before you clock out for the day and count some sheep that hopefully look nothing like Pietro, you can spend Play Coins, ranging from one to five (so far), to upgrade your decorating abilities and the items available to you, as well as other functions. Like, now I can change my avatar’s skin tone and hairstyle in the boutique section upstairs at Nook’s Homes. Also, I have every gyroid possible, simply at a fingertip’s reach. Same with famous pieces of art.

Now, you’ll recall I had a bad case of epic fail last time I went to GameStop. Well, seems like there was still some in my system when I went to purchase Happy Home Designer with a Christmas gift card. Speaking of cards, there are special amiibo cards for this game that allow you to personally invite celebrities like Tortimer and DJ KK to Main Street and help construct a home for them. Since I have a regular ol’ launch Nintendo 3DS, I asked the young man behind the counter if the amiibo cards would still work or if they only worked on the New Nintendo 3DS, which remains a terrible name to this day. I mean, there’s only one copy of the game, and the game itself comes with a card, so I hoped they would work no matter where you ended up playing it. The GameStop employee told me they would work. Got home, played for a bit, unlocked the amiibo phone, and nope–they do not. I’d have to buy some sort of electronic reader for $19.99 to get them to work, and I already spent enough money on the game and cards themselves that I’m annoyed by the whole process, so forget it.

I’m not playing Happy Home Designer every day like I did for Animal Crossing: New Leaf when I first got it and then for many, many months thereafter. Instead, I’m chipping away at it, doing a client’s request or a job from Isabelle, and then calling it a night. That’s fine. It’s a leisurely game about making animals happy, and making animals happy makes me happy, so this is how I get my fix when needed. However, I am curious to know how long this whole business plan lasts because, eventually, I will run out of clients and things to do.

Animal Crossing 3DS and what we know

When the Nintendo 3DS and its potential blockbusters were first announced, the forthcoming game I was most excited for was Animal Crossing 3DS, which is not its official title, but could probably end up being so. The no-battery life handheld came out in March 2011, and GameStop, along with a number of other retailers, were claiming that the next iteration of the cutesy, addicting life sim was slated for Fall 2011. Right, so it didn’t make the launch lineup, wasn’t primed for summer, but an autumn release wasn’t too far off; I could wait. And I have.

Currently, it’s late January 2012, and there’s still no Animal Crossing 3DS. When’s it coming out? Who knows. There’s nothing. Nintendo is being extra quiet about this game–and I have absolutely no idea why. Just tell us it’s true name and when we can expect to play it. Simple as that. A new tentative release window says Summer 2012, but I no longer trust anything unless it is backed by Nintendo reps themselves.

Okay, I guess we do know some gameplay tidbits, which are enough to nibble on, but I’m hungry. I’m ready to eat. True fact: I’m always ready to eat.

The biggest gameplay detail that is known is that you are no longer a mere resident of the animal-filled town you come to call your own. No, you are its mayor, a man or woman with power and dominating control. It’s not clear if you start out in this role or have to earn it by a number of miscellaneous character-building tasks, but whatever. And as mayor of all of Hobbitontown, you’ll certainly need some assistance. So, meet your new, private secretary:

Aw, she’s kind of adorable. And nameless currently. Alas, rumor has it that she can be extremely clumsy, but her role remains vital nonetheless. As your secretary, she’ll help point out parts of the village that look particularly good and parts that may need some extra work. So if there’s ever a lull in your daily minutiae, check in with her and find out what you can be doing to improve your town and your ratings before the re-election circuit hits.

Everybody’s arch-nemesis from previous Animal Crossings is back, but this time wearing some new attire. That’s right. Tom Nook is no longer selling stock. Instead, he’s selling houses. Not sure what this ultimately means, but maybe it has something to do with StreetPassing other towns. I suspect that you’ll still have to deal with him on a daily basis for some reason or another. I mean, he sells houses, and you’re in charge of a bunch of houses.

Other confirmed tidbits in a nice bulleted list because I’m getting tired of trying to think of interesting ways to phrase all of this:

  • Benches and outdoor items, such as lamps, are now available
  • Nintendo-themed items aplenty
  • Players can go swimming
  • Customization of the outside of houses is now allowed, and we’re not just talking about changing the roof’s color
  • You can live in a tent
  • Furniture customization to rule all
  • There’s a mall, which I guess is akin to visiting the city as in Animal Crossing: City Folk
  • You can take your shoes off
  • YOU CAN TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF
  • YOU CAN TAKE YOUR F*CKING SHOES OFF!!!

Woah.

Well, that’s all I got for now. I’m tired of speculating. Just give us some dang, honest-to-goodness solid details, Nintendo. I promise you, no matter what you say, I am buying this game the day it comes out. I just hope it comes out soon.

30 Days of Gaming, #15 – Post a screenshot from game you’re playing right now

I’m gonna take advantage of today’s topic train from the 30 Days of Gaming meme to also link to a new review I did for The First Hour. It’s of Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar, the most recent iteration of the seemingly popular farming sim games. I covered the game’s first thirty minutes, and most of that time was spent in a slow tutorial downpour. I’ll be back at a later point in time to dig deeper into the game because–no matter what–I’m going to at least get through an entire year of this slog.

Here’s the image I’d like to present to y’all to represent the game, and the reason I’m picking it is for the absurd amount of G this character has:

I think the highest I’ve accumulated at this point is around 15,000G, and that’s after selling everything I owned–including my very soul–at this week’s bazaar. Oh, and Antoinette is totally snobby to me, too. Why anyone would want to pursue her for marriage is beyond me. I’m going after Sherry, but at this point, it seems like it’s easier to get chickens to like me than actual people. Sad and disturbing, but also very true. Ah, the life of a farmer…