Sunday, September 18, 2011


Etrian Odyssey III

It's autumn! Time to bake bread, pour caramel syrup in your apple juice, and play a dungeon crawl! This year, we've got a little number called Etrian Odyssey III.

I bought Etrian Odyssey III because someone told me that it's all about drawing a map of a maze, which is completely correct. The maze is displayed on the top screen in glorious 3D, and the bottom screen is a piece of electronic graph paper. You paint in the corridors, pencil in the walls, and drop in little pictures of doors and staircases and other important landmarks.

This is completely satisfying.

Of course, along the way there are monsters you have to murder, and afterward you can collect bits of their bodies to take back to the shop and sell for the money you'll need to buy the armor, weapons, and magic potions that have been made from the bits of body that you've sold them. It's the circle of life. Poetry.

You create your own party using whatever characters you like and teach them whatever skills you think will be most useful. This is also completely satisfying. The only thing that could make it better is if they somehow managed to simultaneously make it a first-person maze-crawling adventure and an overhead roguelike where combat plays out like a board game where movement and position affects your strategy. Unfortunately, they didn't accomplish the impossible, so combat is of the Dragon Quest variety -- an encounter takes you to a different screen, where everyone is in range of everyone else and the only tactical decision you can make is to divide your party into a front row and a back row, with the back row being slightly less likely to draw monsters' attention.

There's also a narrative to Etrian Odyssey III, and based on what I've heard about the series and what I've seen so far of this game, I'm going to take a stab at it and say that the moral of the story is that man is the worst monster of all, which is important to keep in mind and everything, but not exactly novel at this point.

No, all I want to do is draw a map of a maze. If the game designers have decided to place an unspeakable genocide between me and this objective, that's their own sick fetish. This is my free time and we're all just playing make-believe, so to hell with your morality play. I've got some corridors to paint.


Saturday, September 17, 2011


So I Bought a 3DS

Continuing a proud and unbroken tradition of eventually caving in to everything that Nintendo has ever tried to sell me, I find myself with a 3DS despite every rational argument against it.

Yes, the 3D effect is interesting, but it's the same problem I have with 3D movies -- it's striking for about five minutes, and then your eyes have adjusted to it and it's no longer any big deal. 3D photography is fine. I got one game to go with it -- Pilotwings Resort -- and it's fun, just flying around Wuhu Island a bit. The battery is disappointing, but it's okay because I doubt the thing will ever really leave the house.

That's right, the damned thing is never going to leave my house. You know why? Two reasons: the DS Lite and the DSi. Or, more to the point, the L and R buttons.

I'm not a woman. I don't have a fucking purse to put my shit in. If your device is so flimsy that it will rapidly and reliably break by being left in my pocket, then it will not go anywhere with me. So fuck your internal pedometer and fuck your fucking "game coins" and fuck your Face Raiders game that's supposed to inspire me to go around showing it to people, because I spent too much fucking money on this thing to hobble it in the act of playing into your little fucking social marketing campaign.

So why did I buy it?

Twenty free games.


Here's the thing. The thing. The only thing about the 3DS that matters to me.

Portable. Virtual. Console.

See, I'm starting to warm up to the idea of a handheld gadget that lets you play video games if you give it a credit card number. And while iPod Touch games are improving, they're hardly Game Boy games, are they? Sure, there's a lot you can do with a touch screen, but I'm not sure if I want Super Mario Brothers to be one of them.

And yes, maybe they could... oh, let's face it, it's a real dickheaded move on Nintendo's part not to do this with the perfectly serviceable DSi. Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, NES, Super NES, just put 'em all up for a couple bucks a pop. But okay, you want to save that feature for the 3DS, fine, whatever. I'm just glad it's happening.

I'm less glad that it's happening with GLACIAL SLOWNESS.

They pulled this shit with the Wii too, didn't they? One game a week, with maybe four really excellent and worthwhile games per year, and the rest is filler. Christ, Nintendo, you seriously wonder why no one's downloading your shit? If new stuff comes out so slowly and hardly any of it is interesting, interest drops off. This isn't fucking voodoo.

And this online store IS. A. MESS.

"Oh good," I thought at first. "They're doing away with points and allowing you to work with real money, just like on the iTunes store." Except whoops, they've got to be assholes and fuck it up. It'd be too convenient for the customer to just put whatever amount they want into their account, so you've got to work in $5 increments. And since sales tax is applied to your purchases, you will never ever have a clear balance ever again. There will always be some unused amount floating around out there.

At least you can transfer software from one system to another now. But only a couple times, you naughty customer you! We wouldn't want you to get too cozy with the idea of using the things you own in the way you want to!

So now I have a portable that stays at home and plays ten NES games, and those are fun in that "Haven't I done this a million times already?" sort of way, and now I get to wait for GBA games to arrive as if they're a huge sack of gold and I don't have a perfectly serviceable GBA and a huge stack of absolutely wonderful games sitting RIGHT THERE. Like, I can look straight at them. I could stop typing this shit RIGHT NOW and play them.

I think I'm going to.



Armor Games Roundup

Ah, Flash games. What's not to like? You don't need a high-powered computer to play them, most of them are free to play, and they're often short enough that you can actually finish them in a single sitting.

But visit a website like Armor Games, and you may find yourself a little overwhelmed by the selection. There's like a zillion games there! Which ones are the good ones?

Here's a few of my favorites.

Portal: The Flash Version

Top of the list is the one that made me discover Armor Games to begin with. Unfortunately lacking the dry wit that made the proper Valve game so incredible, this game is nevertheless something that will actually run on my computer, so it has the upper hand there. Plus it's a 2D game, and it's every hell of fun to play. There's even cake at the end!

Shift 2
Shift 3
Shift 4
Shift: Freedom

Which brings us to Shift, a series of puzzley platforming games that take an interesting gameplay mechanic -- the ability to invert game space -- and explore it to bits.

The later games get quite long and involved, and I have to admit I've only played the first three, sans "good" endings.

Exit Path
Exit Path 2

And here's a pair of hardcore platformers. They stand out for the elegant way they tell their stories and their ridiculous, beautiful death traps. Even as you die a billion times, the game never feels impossible.


Another hardcore platformer, minus the story.

This is the Only Level
This is the Only Level Too

Clever concept. As the title suggests, each game has only one level layout. The clever bit is that every time you replay that one level, there's some sort of twist to the gameplay -- controls, physics, rules -- that makes it feel completely different.

Achievement Unlocked
Achievement Unlocked 2

Another pair of games with a clever concept. A sort of spoof of X-Box achievements, each game puts you in a small platforming environment with no real objective except to try and earn all of the games' 100+ achievements. Strangely addictive.


Speaking of strangely addictive, Wasabi is a game where you run a sushi restaurant by walking around a 2D environment and hitting blocks, Mario-style. More time-consuming than really challenging, but it's fun to earn all of the upgrades.

Coinbox Hero

To take Wasabi one step further, here's Coinbox Hero, the game where you hit a Mario-style coin box repeatedly and use the coins to buy workers and upgrades that allow you to get ever more coins from the box. Busy work, but strangely satisfying.

Saving the Company

Silly platformer with silly puzzles.

The Last Survivor

Brief platformer with an interesting puzzle mechanic.

The Company of Myself

A pair of games related only by the fact that they're very enjoyable and best experienced without knowing what you're getting into.

The Game
Replaying :The Game:
Reimagine :The Game:

Part joke game, part satire, part cultural trolling, part gratuitous stick figure violence. The first two games are good for a cheap laugh, and the third... well, play them in order for the full effect.

Ollie's Dance Experience

It's Dance Dance Revolution with a lovably stupid story about stolen roller skates. Enjoy with my compliments.

Learn to Fly
Learn to Fly 2

Dissatisfied with a Kiwipedia article calling him a "flightless bird", a stubborn penguin has decided that he's going to learn how to fly. Each flight earns you money which you use to buy upgrades to improve your ability to fly. Gliding controls are fun, and the storyline bits are surprisingly entertaining.

Every Day the Same Dream

One of those artsy kinda games, it's worth playing once.

How to Raise a Dragon

Less a game and more an interactive storybook toy. You control a dragon through various stages of its life, and the choices you make affect the kind of beast it grows up to be. There's nothing difficult about it; it's just a small interactive world where you tell a short story to yourself.

Gretel and Hansel
Gretel and Hansel Part 2

Point and click adventure in the style of King's Quest with cool sort of paper doll graphics and horribly creepy Grimm-inspired situations.

Llama Adventure

Brief, silly, and very enjoyable text game.

Gap Monsters

Clever puzzle game with a cheerfully sadistic narrative voice. People sure loved Portal, didn't they?

Where Am I?

Interesting take on the maze game.


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