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Shoot the Breeze: I Hesitate To Explain


It is irrefutably impossible to look cool while carrying groceries. Trust me. I've thought about this long and hard, run through countless simulations in my head. Crunched the numbers. It can't be done. The optimal situation calls for a baguette held jauntily with an air of aloofness, but even this barely scrapes a level above unremarkable on the cool spectrum. Most of us will find ourselves hovering around dweeby for the rest of our lives. Such is the burden of buying food.

Oh yeah, we're doing this two weeks in a row. Watchu got. Nah, but for rizzle, it was reading break and I got to play me some games. Don't expect the same next Monday - this is the infamous No Chincing Week, the seven days so jam-packed with assignments, projects, and midterms that we engineers made a pact to not slack off to play video games or do internet in the hope that we can keep our heads above the water.

And, truth be told, I saw the community love arkane9 was getting and I wanted to get me some of that sweet action, so I took the time to make a hip animated Destructoid gif that reflects my blog.

Yeah, it'll do that for a while.

Mom's Underwear

I approached The Binding of Isaac with nothing less than soaked-pants caliber fear. I still haven't finished Super Meat Boy and the thought of mastering its protein-powered protagonist gives me the night terrors to this day. How then could I have hoped to beat a game combining the raw and twisted power of Edmund Mcmillan with the give-up-and-go-home grind of a roguelike?

By manning the hell up and putting on my fighting bra is how.

Our own tall, dark man of misery - er, mystery - Corduroy Turtle covered The Binding in the Buy It/Avoid It Report, so affix your eyes on that for the peppy blow-by-blow. As a reminder, it's the procedurally generated Zelda-style shooter that draws some influences from traditional roguelikes and features a naked child armed with only his own tears. Groovy.

Let's be upfront about something here. I'm not very good at video games. Honest. For true. Straight up legit. I'm hard pressed to name a single game at which I really, truly excelled. Maybe Halo, back in my vigorous youth, but beyond that, I struggle to rise above mediocre. It's small wonder then that my first impression of The Binding was that victory wasn't measured in defeating Mom but in drawing-out death for the longest time possible. Still, in fits and spurts, in classes, at friends houses, and yes, on boats, my playtime crept up to a healthy twenty-four hours and in that time, I've managed to squeeze out three solid victories.

Yes, three. So much success. I am the Myspace of videogame players.

Yes, Myspace. Always topical. What'm I gunna say, Google+?

Yeah, actually, that might hit a little harder. Speaking of which,

I love the powerups in this game. Far and away the best. The basic shooty-shooty gameplay is fun, but man, you throw demon horns and high heels into the mix and you've got a hell of a Friday night. And, uh, a game, obviously. There's something satisfying in this wonderfully organic way about how the various items and abilities are collected over the course of the game, all building to this monster-child who is not only a blast to play, but a visual feast and, moreover, beautifully unique with each siege on the basement. It's just gorgeous, stuff with lasers and ladders and love.

The permadeath is all the sweet heartache of deepthroating an icecream sandwich and letting that sugar ride. The man in me who loves the idea of roguelikes is singing the praises of that factor in the game's white knuckle intensity, but hand-in-hand with that is the sense of ongoing discovery. Each play teaches, whether about the horde of items and enemies to be found or, and this is the important part, how to make the most out of the environment. What to blow up, when to spend keys, everything that makes the world of Isaac.

That sea of content is grand in and of itself mind you. Unlocking new weapons and foes is a huge draw to come back again and again. Conquer fresh pieces and you'll work your way to receiving more still in this splendid positive feedback loop. I've just now unlocked all of the characters and I'm damn pleased with everything it took to get me to this point. Worth it for the dude with the fez though.

Are we all over the place with this discussion? Yeah, apologies for that. There's a lot of good stuff here and I'm having trouble giving away its riches. Tell you what, let's trust it's all good and move on.

Dick Souls

I mentioned reading break somewhere in the muddle above? I managed to make it home for a few days. I also managed to transfer a file using asynchronous communication across an unreliable network by writing TCP from scratch, but maybe we'll save tales of my homework for another day.

Anyway, the last day at home presented me with a choice. It was the Thursday before most of my classmates dropped out of school to play Skyrim and my brother had decided he wanted to drop some coin to fight those dragons. To this end, he'd committed himself to trading in Dark Souls for a little extra dough. Herein I found my decision - save my money for my own Elder Scrollsey adventure or buy the game I'd been waiting to play since Demons Souls wasn't released for the 360.

So now I own Dark Souls.

And I'm not sure this was the right choice.

Now, I need you to understand this. I watched a friend play Skyrim for about an hour. I've seen what the game is about. It's all very impressive. Magic looks cool. The environments are beautiful. Now and again, there are, as promised, dragons. It all looks very fun. Dark Souls is not about being fun. Dark Souls never makes any pretense about trying to be fun. Dark Souls is about being rewarding. It's for that reason it's far and away one of my favourite experiences in recent memory. That said, I'm in agony.

I don't know what to do with this game. Right now, I'm caught between a rock and a hard place, only the rock is two gargoyles, a laser-spitting hydra, and a cave of immortal skeletons and the hard place is every second of this goddamn game. Individual instances aside, I just, I don't know. I haven't grasped the game's parlance. Do I explore more nooks and crannies in the hopes of finding better loot? Do I grind to buff my character? Do I simply stop not being good? I'm paralyzed by my lack of understanding. In a way I haven't really felt before, I do not know what the game expects of me.

But heaven help me, I'll give it.

Regardless of how stuck I seem to find myself - very - I can't stop leaping back in. Hell, I can't stop thinking about leaping back in and what my next move's going to be. The clock says I've already sunk a good six or seven hours into this guy and while the net gain of that escapes me, I'm not displeased with the strength of my efforts. Naturally, their effect could be more tangible, but what's a boy to do?

Heck, maybe this is how it's supposed to be. Maybe this is what everyone does. They stumble. Maybe this is the natural hurdle.

Reason tells me this is not the case. Myspace of videogame players, if you'll recall.

Well. This is something I'd like to discuss at far greater length in due time. I know the machine-god knutaf has already done so, but a grave fear of spoilers, the hagfish of the independent mind, steers me too far away from his always pleasant works. Tell you what, my mind is drifting, so let's leave this blog for today, undercooked though it may be. Let today's epitaph read that I'm lost in Dark Souls and not disposed to navigate my way out any time soon.

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About Beyamorone of us since 1:10 PM on 06.24.2009

I知 a gamer. Take a minute and get over that shock. I can say I知 an Xbox man, though I値l support anything that advances gaming (I love you Sackboy). I致e also got a DS Chunky, so I can take this whole nerd thing on the road.

As far as genres, shooters and western RPGs top my list. Halo, Fable, and Morrowind, for instance, rock my socks hard. Of course other things, stuff like Animal Crossing and Kingdom Hearts, do their share of stocking rocking.

In the world outside of buttons and pixels, I知 an engineering student (that nerd thing I mentioned? I do it hardcore) on the west coast of the Great White North. I知 a fan of a harder rock, bands like Breaking Benjamin and Hurt, though I値l kick it (very much figuratively) to stuff ranging from The Fray through Franz Ferdinand to Five Finger Death Punch. Optimus Prime is my hero, but I do love Starscream. Finally, thumbs up to you for reading this. You池e never getting that time back.

Kirbey by the talented and generously endowed (probably) Enkido