November! The month when Americans transition from eating hard candy that they put off eating and move onto gorging on softer foods like turkey and potatoes. More importantly though, November is the month when Americans undergo what is essentially The Purge only instead of mass fatalities, people just murder their wallets. This affords people like me a number of potential opportunities to bolster my games library and broaden my horizons somewhat. This month I kinda did that too, buying a couple of games during Black Friday sales but I haven’t actually played them yet. What I DID play this month though can be seen below:
(A rendering of my Demon's Souls character)
Last month, I gushed about Dark Souls Remastered for about three or so paragraphs so I’ll try to keep this brief. I’m still having a really good time with Dark Souls: since last month, I’ve beaten my first new game+ run and started a new character, this one focusing on spell casting and pyromancy. I’m also determined to beat as many bosses as possible before ringing both bells and the only thing I haven’t beaten yet are the Four Kings. My health is low enough that I’m easily killed in a couple of their hits but my main issue is, I just can’t hit it very hard. Chaos Fireballs knock out a few hundred HP per hit but I only have 4 of those at default and I really don’t want to give up my FaP ring. Any other attack I use can’t even knock a hundred HP off of the Kings at this point so I’ll probably relent and just demolish the Gargoyle so I can get into Sen’s Funhouse and start farming souls so I can afford to craft myself a chaos fire-sword. My Switch is telling me I’ve spent 80 hours on the game but I feel like I’m edging closer to the 85 hour mark than the 80. I still love Dark Souls and I’m still cosplaying as a Nazgul.
(Am I doing Fashion Souls correctly?)
The Adventure of Bertram Fiddle, Episode 1: A Dreadly Business is a point and click adventure game which follows the title character and his cycloptic manservant Gavin. Bertram Fiddle is a world renowned explorer but his wife has been badgering him about getting a ‘real job’. This episode is centered around guiding Bertram (and Gavin) through Victorian London, tasked with taking a small dog to be groomed, get information on adventuring from the local explorers’ guild and, tracking down a cold blooded murderer. I’m not the best with point and click adventure games but I like the idea of them and have definitely tried a few more this year than I did last year. This one has an inventory system, a look/use system and a system where you can ask Gavin to do a thing Bertram is unable to do. Some of the puzzles were pretty tricky and I did need to consult an FAQ to see what I was missing early on. This is because I the controls weren’t as well explained as I would have liked and worse yet, the controls in general felt a little bit slow. This is almost certainly a Switch-exclusive issue though; if I was playing on PC instead of with a controller, I’m sure the game would have felt smoother to play. The humor resonated with me; there were a few good visual jokes and some decent word-play and if it wasn’t for the fact that you hold onto a severed head and must reassemble it, I might even say this is a pretty good entry game for kids who might be interested in point and click adventures.
Mecho Tales is a game I bought on sale for roughly a dollar on the eShop. It’s a simple-looking platformer that caught my eye some time ago and the price was low enough that I decided to take a chance on this one. Mecho Tales plays pretty stiffly and reminds me of gameplay videos I’ve seen for platformers made for the Commodore 64. You can attack enemies by shooting at them but you shoot at enemies by tilting the right control stick which makes the game just feel even more awkward to play. If there are checkpoints in this game, I didn’t find any: The few times I died in this game, I was sent back to the beginning of the first level. This wouldn’t be much of an issue but enemies take multiple hits to actually kill but your playable character can’t take nearly as much abuse. I gave this game about a half hour before I stopped playing and deleted the game from my Switch.
Yakuza Kiwami was a free game given out during this month’s PS+ promotion and my understanding is that this is a remake of the first Yakuza game. I put about 25 hours into this game and only stopped because I couldn’t figure out how to make the story continue. Without the plot to carry me, Yakuza has a lot of reasonably engaging activities that I did enjoy spending time with. I must have put about 2 hours into slot car racing alone and you don’t actually need to press a button once a race begins. I also spent a lot of time bowling and I was disappointed when I realized that bowling a Turkey (3 strikes in a row) doesn’t award you a trophy. I wooed a couple of hostesses and threw money and gifts at them but my Demi-sexual ass didn’t really get a lot out of that. I didn’t bother with Kareoke because I couldn’t find it and was much more distracted by the restaurants and bars littering Kamurochou.
The main bulk of what I did in Yakuza Kiwami was fight. The fighting system is made up of four attack style; the fast one, the slow powerful one, the all-rounder and, the signature one that’s difficult to actually level up. It’s possible to swap out fighting styles almost on the fly (possibly on the fly with enough level-ups) so even when I was fighting street thugs for the four-dozenth time the fighting still felt relatively fresh. Most of the time you have the option to pick up objects around you and use them to beat your opponents, you can also buy weapons and armor that you can equip to bolster your defenses and give you an unofficial additional fighting style. Then there’s Goro Majima: Majima is a Yakuza who stalks your player character and maybe it was because I have bad luck or maybe it’s because the RNG is very aggressive but there were instances where I would fight Majima back to back up to three times a row before I was able to restock on healing items or have a meal. One time he attacked me WHILE I was buying some food! I love Majima as a character but he grated on my nerves after a while due entirely to just how often he popped up.
(I will always love Majima...)
Word Sudoku is almost exactly what it sounds like: mechanically this is exactly the same as what sudoku is but instead of filling a 3 by 3 grid with the digits 1 through 9, you’re filling out a grid with letters that make up a word. This isn’t a crossword puzzle, you’re just playing sudoku but with letters. The demo lasted a lot longer than I expected it too and I have no plans on actually buying this but it’s functional and I put more time into this than Mecho Tales.
Demetrios is a point and click adventure game that looked silly and like something I’d enjoy but the demo didn’t sell me at all. The interface was easier for me to use than the one from Bertram Fiddle but the playable character wasn’t nearly as memorable for me, though I do remember disliking him. The story mildly intrigued me but that interest dried up quickly while I played the demo.
Plague Road is a game that’s frequently put on sale on the Switch eShop. The sale price is usually a single dollar (US), and as often as it’s put on sale I can’t even tell you what the usual retail price is. The aesthetic reminds me of the Souls series in a way since you’re playing as a plague doctor in leather, Batman-like armor and you’re wandering around a Medieval-Fantasy world. So with my curiosity was piqued, I spent a whole dollar on this game and still turned out somewhat disappointed. I liked how you can find new party members out and about as you explore the world and I even like how that and the levels themselves are generated randomly. What kept me from getting fully invested was the combat system. It has promise; combat scenarios play out on a grid where your player or party can move, as can the enemies you’re fighting again. Each attack and ability has an area of effect or range but from what I’ve played the actual back and forth of combat just felt basic. Each ability seems to have a set amount of damage that it does all the time and since the combat is static and turn-based, you know ahead of time exactly when an encounter will end for good or for ill. I didn’t really like how stiff character animations were either, it’s almost as though all of the character models were based off of paper dolls where the only movement occurs on their joints. The presentation is alright in still images but actually playing the game just didn’t do anything for me so after about two hours I stopped playing and deleted the game from my Switch.
One thing that Plague Road did do for me was remind me that I could have been playing Demon’s Souls again. It was either that or youtube videos on the subject of breaking Demon’s Souls that was the catalyst for my latest playthrough of the game. What I ended up doing was exploiting an item duplication glitch to level myself up past 125 and the magic swapping glitch to use Firestorm while moving. Despite being overpowered in a huge way, I still had trouble with some of the more fiddly enemy encounters like the Red and Blue Dragons who need to be killed at range. I did manage to kill Red with poison mist for the first time but Blue killed Biorr before I could shoot it to death. Then there’s Old King Doran who I accidentally pissed off by using plague mist one time too many. He hit me hard enough that I would have died if he bashed me twice in a row but I was able to cheese it to death. I’m considering doing another Demon’s Souls run eventually but I want to get through Dark Souls again and I’m feeling like it’s about time to play Bloodbourne again.
Another game on my Switch wishlist that I didn’t realize had a demo is the beat-em-up Caveman Warriors. Caveman Warriors is a platformer wherein you can change between four cavepeople on the fly, with each one having a unique ability. Like with Mecho Tales, I feel like this game could have been remade from an old PC platformer just from how stiffly the game feels as I played it. It definitely felt more responsive than Mecho Tales and combat was a lot more snappy and thus satisfying but on the whole, I felt like I was playing a beta. The mechanics were solid but simple, the overall aesthetic seemed very simplistic and, the playable level in the demo just didn’t do a lot to keep me engaged. I didn’t want to but I wound up taking Caveman Warriors off of my wishlist after I played through the demo stage.
This month, the NES/Famicom online app granted players access to Metroid and I have completely forgotten the other two games that were unlocked until I looked it up: Twinbee and Mighty Bomb Jack. There was also special edition of NES Open which I happily ignored (and was only available in the Famicom app). Regrettably, Mighty Bomb Jack was forgettable for me: I remember the title character having a nice jump though, it reminded me a lot of something like Superman or someone in the way he nearly flies upward. Twinbee is a slow-paced shooter which engaged me more effectively than I expected it to. I’m not a massive fan of vertical or horizontal shooting games in general but I like them enough that I’m almost always willing to try a new one if I’m given the opportunity. The main draw for me was the Famicom version of Metroid: unlike the NES version, Fami-Metroid starts out like Legend of Zelda. You name three save files before you start the game and the game saves each time you die (or each time you quit out of the game). Other than that Metroid is just as atmospheric as it’s ever been. I really wish I could change the borders in the NES/Famicom app and I still need a guide to get through Metroid without getting lost of bumbling into a high level area but it’s still an absolute classic.
The last game I played this month, that doesn’t contain the word ‘Souls’, is the free-to-play Warframe. I was very wary about this one since it’s an online game and partying up with other players seems to be a core mechanic. As I’ve mentioned in previous months, I can’t play Dark Souls in the Switch dock and have the online aspects work. With Warframe though, I was able to get through multiple missions with other players. There were a few instances where I lost a connection with my group but I was surprised by just how stable the game was for me. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played of Warframe but I’m starting to feel a little bit burned by the repetition of the combat and enemy encounters but I understand that I’m still very early in the game. What I don’t understand is how leveling works, why there are two currencies, how to customize my character, how mods work, and where/how to fish. The main thrust of the game, the running, multi-jumping, slashing and, shooting, are all easy to understand and satisfying to pull off. I am enjoying this game even though it has elements that I dislike (ie: repetitive enemies and combat) and I even see myself playing this game more next month. Since it’s free, it would be pretty great to team up with some of you but I’m at a point where I feel like I lack direction. Cetus is neat in theory but like the people who write zodiac articles, I think I’d rather just ignore it.
(It's worth mentioning that Warframe was actually made in Deviantart)
The year 2018 is nearly behind us, all that’s left is December. I’m absolutely going to be getting at least one new game this coming month given how important capitalism is during this time of year so my December list could be my longest of the year. Of course one of the biggest releases that month is the hugely anticipated and much loved Borderlands 2 VR but I’m interested in games that are actually good so I’m likely going to play something more along the lines of Super Smash Bros Ultimate or Hitman, unless of course Grim Fandango goes on sale. If you’re expecting an end-of-year round up of the best games on 2018 than you can just wait until January because I’m firmly opposed to the idea of talking about the best game of a given year before that year has officially concluded. So, look forward to my December journal by or before New Year and my 2018 hyper-blog some days or weeks after that.