Well, I’m about a week late but I’m not giving up on my monthly gaming journal. The month of April was a strange one for me: I’ve been anticipating a tax refund that would enable me to build a PC which led me to focus on games my all-in-one HP would be capable of playing. Additionally, I’ve spent time playing indie games that caught my attention some time ago but which only recently went on sale. This wasn’t a month where I made a lot of progress on many console games or big budget games but it was definitely a month where I tried a bunch of games that were outside of my usual comfort zone. Here’s my list;
(Few doodles this month because I have the blah's!)
The first Elder Scrolls title I’ve ever played was Morrowind, way back during the turn of the century on my Microsoft Xbox. I really enjoyed the game but I played it like high-fantasy Grand Theft Auto: I wandered aimlessly murdering fools for no good reason and cheated in such a way that allowed me to fly. I’ve never actually completed the main quest of Morrowind though and my goal, when I realized my PC could run the game fairly well, was to finally beat the main quest. I failed to do this but I did complete the thieves guild quest line which I’ve somehow never managed to do before. Usually when I play Elder Scrolls games, I make an Argonian character and my most recent playthrough keeps that theme up because I like disease resist and water breathing. What I didn’t realize about Morrowind though was that water breathing is a spell you need to cast. I also found it amusing that resist disease didn’t help protect me against Corprus but I knew beforehand that I would need to catch the disease to make it through the main quest line.
During my most recent playthrough of Morrowind I’ve made it to the point where all of the nomadic tribes call me Naravarrine, which is farther than I’ve ever made it before in this game. What I had forgotten about was just how slowly you move in-game which annoys the crap out of me more than the fact that combat is based more on dice rolls and a random number generator than how it works in Oblivion and Skyrim. What made me stop playing was my PC bugging out: I would have absolutely continued playing Morrowind if my PC didn’t decide to stop working. It might be awhile before I pick it back up though, not because it’s a bad game but for other reasons.
Metal Gear Solid V looked really interesting to me; I like open world games, I like stealth games and I really liked the first Metal Gear Solid. I was also feeling desperate to play something new on my PS4. The Definitive Edition of Metal Gear Solid V went on sale last month so I finally downloaded it and jumped into Ground Zeroes! I’ve watched enough content about the game to know what the story entails so when the story bits played, I felt restless, even a little annoyed. Once I actually got into the game though, it absolutely did not click with me. Getting to Paz was pretty straightforward but getting to double-boom (I don’t remember her name) was a little less straightforward. It was pretty neato, I could crawl through a ditch, sneak into a door, sneak into another door, steal a truck...I played through the main mission of Ground Zeroes once and started it a second time but sneaking around the prison camp actually annoyed me more than anything.I didn’t think this was a major deal though since Ground Zeroes was mostly maligned.
So, I booted up Phantom Pain and when it asked me to create a character I turned off Phantom Pain and played Morrowind some more for a couple of days. I don’t know why I reacted that way to be honest: I just felt very much like I didn’t want to deal with character creation in a Metal Gear game and since I was still feeling sour from Ground Zeroes I guess I needed a break from Metal Gear. When I did decide to go along with Phantom Limb’s shenanigans though I was immediately and inconsolably frustrated and annoyed by the tutorial level. I can’t say why the hospital escape annoyed me as much as it did but a combination of the tone, the forced combat sections, the feeling that I wasn’t told enough about how the game works...it all combined to make for a really frustrating experience for me. I didn’t care about the man on fire, the horse chase was stupid and by all rights everybody should have been killed before the game even began. I played for about a half hour in the desert before I shut the game off. Miller will be fine without me.
I won a copy of The Red Strings Club through Destructoid! It’s not a game that I put a lot of time into. I went into it assuming it would be more of a bartending sim but it reminds me a lot more of a visual novel. The thing is, what stopped me from putting too much time into it is how I’m apparently horrible at reading people. At the end of my first confirmation with someone I was quizzed on what they’re all about and I utterly tanked it. If I do go back to Red Stings Club, I see myself playing with a guide, if only for the sake of getting the most out of the story. I almost like the pottery mini-game from the early game but controlling that section felt really sluggish for some reason. It could be because I’m playing on the Switch and using analog controls though: I can see that mini-game possibly working better with a mouse.
Grim Fandango Remastered is out on the Switch and I actually bought it last month but I only started playing it in April. This is the first time I’ve ever actually played this game and what I’ve liked about it so far is how many subtle hints you can pick up on through cutscenes and dialog that can help solve puzzles later on. There haven’t any moments so far where I felt completely stuck which I’m told was one of Lucasarts strong suits when it comes to puzzle design in their point and click games. I’ve also heard good things about the writing of Lucasart’s point and click adventure games of yesteryear and so far I’ve really enjoyed all of the characters and most of the dialog in Grim Fandango. The story is really engaging but I’ve been distracted by other games so it might be some time before I go back to Grim Fandango.
I was gifted Nioh by the generous and downright gorgeous Destructoid user Sharukurusu for the Playstation 4 in April! I’ve really taken a shine to Demon’s Dark Blood over the past few years and Nioh was heavily inspired by those games. The thing is, I haven’t really had a chance to pick it up. Now that I’ve played it though, I see that it’s got a more nuanced combat system than the Fromsoft series. It took me a while to wrap my head around the combat stances, for example, and the fatigue system is another mechanic that I don’t feel fully in control of yet. I haven’t put too much time or energy into Nioh yet: I’ve beaten the first boss (well, the tutorial bosses) and if I had to guess I’d say I’m halfway through the first level. Nioh is kicking my ass but I get that similar sense of pride and accomplishment every time I kill an Oni. I can’t say I like how it seems like enemies are grouped together and I don’t like how, when you die, you have to press a button to respawn instead of just respawning automatically. I’m absolutely going to finish NIoh eventually but other games caught my attention this month.
Have you ever heard of Red Alarm? I found it in my closet while I was going through some things. It was safely nestled inside of my Virtual Boy and I’m pretty sure it’s the only Virtual Boy game I have with me, in this state, outside of storage. So, what was Red Alarm? Red Alarm is essentially Star Fox but completely indoors. You pilot a 3D wireframe ship and fly through linear corridors shooting at wireframe turrets, ships and, mecha in an arcade style. When it comes to boss fights though, there are small arenas that you can freely fly around in, which is really cool for such an old, VR console. What surprised me about this game is how responsive and quickly the game plays. Star Fox on the Super Nintendo has a frame rate in the single digits but Red Alarm feels quite a lot more spry and if it wasn’t on a console that makes your eyeballs bleed, I could see it being really popular. I enjoy the odd schmup from time to time and this one is definitely one of the good ones.
The Saboteur! Is a game I bought for a few cents off of the Switch eShop and it’s essentially, potentially even literally, is a ZX Spectrum game. There’s also a graphics filter to make it look like a Commodore 64 game but I mostly played on the Spectrum setting. I put about an hour and a half into this game and couldn’t complete the first level. You play as a ninja who is infiltrating a facility and must...sabotage it. In essence, the game is a maze but I’m not even a hundred percent sure what I was meant to be looking for. Guarding the facility are a number of dogs, guards and, machine gun armed cameras. You can defend yourself by either avoiding enemies, throwing picked-up items or a standard punch attack which isn’t all that reliable. This isn’t my first experience with a microcomputer game and while I wouldn’t say The Saboteur! Is a bad game, I can also say that it’s not as good as Jetpac.
The Office Quest was my game of April. It was on sale on the Switch eShop during April and I couldn’t put it down. The Office Quest is a point and click puzzle game about a man following a strange color floating on the breeze. You need to escape from your office block and explore the weird wilderness in a very Lucasarts sort of way to eventually get hold of it. Some of the puzzles require you to find an item and use it on another item to open a path. Some puzzles require you to give a person a thing or a number of things. There is a sudoku puzzle and a matching puzzle. What really sold me on the experience as a whole though were the characters themselves: The Office Quest is dialog free but all of the characters are really expressive and funny without needing to talk. I can see myself going back and replaying this some time and I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone who’s curious about puzzle games or point and click games. There were a couple of instances where I thought I might have been stuck but backtracking and clicking around helped.
(Seriously, buy this game)
Cuphead is on Switch and now Cuphead is on my Switch! I planned on downloading this onto my all-in-one PC since apparently a potato can run this game but it hasn’t been on sale recently and that PC died. It did go on sale on the Switch though and I’ve wanted to play this game since it was first revealed. The tutorial was damn near impossible to get through but once I got into the game and started fighting the bosses and taking on the run and gun levels it didn’t take me all that long to get comfortable with the game. The bosses are really cool in terms of design and the fights are tough at first but according to a head in a lake, I only died about 32 times in the first world. I feel like I died significantly more often in the second world and I’m not finished with it yet but for as much as I’ve enjoyed my time with Cuphead so far, I don’t see myself staying away from it for too long. So far, the most difficult boss for me has been the balloon clown whose name I don’t remember.
I went back and played a little bit of Dark Souls on the Switch this month. It wasn’t a massive playthrough or a new run, I just jumped back into my pyromantic, spellcaster. I fought Jay and Silent Bob then went to the New Londo Ruins where I found that I’ve already killed the Four Kings. I gave Kaathe the Lord Vessel and went to the DLC area where I killed the Guardian Beast relatively easily for a magic user and...well, Knight Artorias is still kicking my ass but I’m working on it!
April was a really weird month for me. Spring almost always has a really negative effect one me, which is what I’m going to blame on me feeling so irritated for so much of that month. Losing my PC definitely didn’t help with my mood but there have been some great sales on the Switch eShop which helped get me through, It’s only the second week of May and things have already shifted for me in a pretty significant way. I’ll elaborate on my next gaming journal though. Things have changed.