Category: video games

Metroid Dread Review

I’ve been playing Metroid games since the first one came out when I was 8 years old. There’s a whole lot to love about the genre: exploring a new world, gathering power ups as you go, and figuring out boss battles so that you can take them all down one by one. In many ways, Metroid games are a great fusion of puzzles and side scrollers all in one. The worlds are often massive, and you can spend hours and hours exploring as you look for all the secrets.

True, sometimes this also leads to some frustration, as you might miss something and end up spending hours trying to figure out what it was you missed. If you’re not into that sort of thing, then Metroid games might well not be for you. (Or maybe you’ll just want to go through them with a walkthrough close to hand. I’m not here to shame people for playing a game however they want to play it.)

There have been some riffs on the Metroid theme over the years. The Metroid Prime series on the Gamecube was particularly different, since it went more for a 3D immersive world feel, which was also a ton of fun. For the first game on the Switch, however, Metroid has returned to its 2D roots, though in a way that feels fresh and fun.

Metroid Dread follows the tried and true approach when it comes to the set up. Samus is off exploring a new planet. Something happens to her that takes away all her power ups, and she has to spend the rest of the game finding them again, one by one. (You’d think she’d have learned to keep better track of those things by now . . . ). The whole thing is side scrolling, but the graphics are done in a way that every now and then it has more of a 3D feel. The planet feels very lived in, if that makes sense, and getting power ups continually gives you a real feeling of upgrades.

Overall, I’ve loved the game. (Full disclosure: I haven’t beaten it yet, but I’m getting close. The fact that I’m getting close says a lot about what I think of the game.) I’m around 9 hours played on the official time, and I’m sure it’s much more than that, since I keep dying, and it doesn’t keep track of that. I’m hardly an expert player, so I’m sure someone who’s better at all of this than I am would be getting through this much more quickly. That said, I also feel like . . . what’s the rush? I paid for the game. Getting through it faster would feel kind of like watching a movie in fast forward. Might as well enjoy the ride, right?

If you’ve got a Switch and like Metroid games, this is a no brainer. Buy buy buy. If you don’t have a Switch still, and love Metroid games, then this would be a very good reason to get a Switch. If you don’t love Metroid games . . . then why are you reading this review? 🙂 If they’re new to you, give them a shot. This is an easy 9/10 in my book.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Video Game Review: Slay the Spire

I love me some video games, even though I don’t get nearly the amount of time to play them these days as I used to. (Though I wonder how much time I ever really had. Maybe it just felt like I had a lot of time because I played an hour or so a day, and an hour or so felt like a longer amount of time when I was 16 than when I’m over 40 . . .)

That said, I’ve had some time at home for some strange reason the last few months, and I’ve taken that time to explore new things. One game that was suggested to me was Slay the Spire (now available on iOS). I tried it out, and I’ve really become hooked. It’s a great single player card game, so if you like drafting a deck on the fly, then this is the perfect game to scratch that itch when you have to be socially distant.

What does it mean to “draft a deck on the fly”? The concept behind Slay the Spire is that you’re working your way through various levels of a tower. You use a deck of cards to beat enemies. The cards either give you defense for the turn, or they attack for the turn, and you can only play a certain number each turn. Once you beat an enemy, you get to add a card to your deck, choosing between three random options. So bit by bit over time, you do your best to create a deck that will be successful in a variety of fights.

Better yet, the game’s difficulty scales. Once you beat the game, you’re able to increase the challenge, and when you’ve beat that harder level, you can do it again, up to 20 times. And on top of that, there are four different character classes you can use, each with their corresponding strengths, weaknesses, and card sets. I’ve put in many hours on this game, and I’m still not past the fourth difficulty level on all four characters.

Even if you manage to beat all of that, the game has daily challenges: custom made games you get to try to get a high score on. (And then you get to see where your score ranked compared to all the other players who tried that day. I’m proud to say I’ve gotten one day when I ended up #1 at the end of the day. It’s tough.)

If any of this sounds remotely up your alley, you should give it a shot. (It costs $10 on iPhone/iPad, $20 or so on PC.) It definitely plays better on an iPad screen than an iPhone screen, so take that into consideration. Honestly, as far as deck building games go, I think this is one of the best ones out there. An easy 10/10 in my book (because I love deck building games.) Tons of value for a pretty cheap investment. If you end up playing on iOS, add me as a friend. I’d love to compare scores!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Video Game Review: Animal Crossing New Horizons

Maine officially closes down tomorrow, with the governor having issued a Stay at Home order that starts at midnight tonight. I saw the writing on the wall well in advance, and so I’ve been looking for ways for my family to not go insane while we’re in quarantine. We’ve got plenty of ways to distract ourselves, but I wanted to get in some different ways where we could do things together. If we came out of this quarantine, and everyone had just spent time doing things on their own, then that would be a failure.

That said, it’s been strange to navigate a new normal in this new environment. I’m at home each day, but I have a bunch of work to do. It’s not like I can put it all aside and just go play games with the kids. In fact, the kids all have homework they’re supposed to be doing as well. So we’re all at the house, but during the day there’s a lot of “all of us working on our own” time, and then we get back together in the late afternoon, almost as if we’re all coming back from work and school.

In any case, I’d heard a lot of good things about the new Animal Crossing game. It’s been so popular over the quarantine time that Nintendo Switches are selling out again, and have once more become hard to obtain. So if you already have a Switch, then this could be a great thing for you to check out for your family. If you don’t . . . it might be hard to play along.

The original Animal Crossing for the Gamecube is one of the few games Denisa ever really played extensively. If you’ve never encountered the game before, it’s pretty straightforward: you play a villager in a town. You do jobs around town to make money and pay for enhancements to your house. You can catch bugs, fish, interact with other villagers, and just generally play at your own speed. There’s no dying. No real competition. It’s just a laid back way to pass the time.

For the Switch version, you have couch co-op, meaning up to four players can play on the screen at the same time, as long as you have enough controllers. That was the detail that really made me decide to try it out. It’s easy to pass the main control from one player to another. (Only one player at a time can talk to villagers and buy and sell things.) It’s already been a smash hit. We’ve had hours of time when two, three, or four players are up playing at the same time. Denisa even came out of retirement last night to have a go at things again.

MC is the biggest fan of the game. She just keeps saying how it’s the “best game ever,” and loves taking as much time as we’ll give her to go around and fish and decorate her house. There’s been a bit of a to do around the game online, since for couch co-op, all progress of the town (making new buildings, for example) rests on the first person to play the game. This means only one person can have “control” over the island, potentially. For our situation, I actually think that works better. I made myself the main player, so there’s no arguing among the kids for what to do and what changes to make. Also, the whole point is to have us all play together, so I’m glad (for now, at least) that we’re not all in different save files in the game. It’s a cooperative thing, and that’s why I bought it.

Anyway. If you have a Switch and are looking for some sustained activities that can bring your family together, I definitely give the game my full endorsement. It sounds bizarre, perhaps, but it really is a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to escape from what’s a pretty grim reality facing us right now.

Give it a shot!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Old School Gaming

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) turned 36 years old just barely, and last night I was introducing DC to some of the old NES games you can play on the Switch if you’re signed up with their online service. She’s a huge Zelda fan, so we played the original for a while, and then we shifted over to some fast and furious Dr. Mario action, and then a bit of Super Marios Bros. 3. A few thoughts:

First, it’s amazing how difficult the games are. She’s an accomplished gamer, having beaten Breath of the Wild on her own, but she wouldn’t make it past a few seconds on most of the Mario levels, and Zelda was a real struggle as well. Tomas tried to show her how it was done on Mario 3, but he also promptly died. The control schemes are much more precise than a lot of the newer games, allowing so much less room for error, it feels. Add to that the very limited number of lives, and you have to have a lot of patience for the game to be able to keep making progress. (I’m happy to report that, while I was a bit rusty at first, I was still able to make my way through the first world of Mario 3 with little difficulty (remembering where the warp whistle was, naturally), and I found the first dungeon in Zelda without making one wrong turn. It’s so nice that my brain cells are holding on to vital information like that.)

Second, it made me think back on my first experiences with the NES. My literal first computer games that I played were on an old Heathkit my dad owned. (Looking back at the specs, it appears that puppy cost around $2,000 back then, which is $4,761 in today’s dollars!) I played a ton of Space Invaders, DND, Zork, and ELIZA. Graphics were limited, often text based, and the screen was black and green. So when we got an Atari 2600, that was pretty incredible. Color! Pictures! I played a ton of Pitfall, Pac Man, Asteroids, Missile Command, Yar’s Revenge, Pole Position, and Centipede. Ironically, looking back at it, I don’t think I played any of them particularly well. I don’t remember getting very far in any of them. I’d know the first few levels quite well, but I’d die. A lot. The thing was, I just didn’t care.

All along, however, the system I wanted most was the NES. Those cool 8-bit graphics were so much better than anything the Atari could put out. I don’t think players growing up with current consoles today realize just what sort of leaps new systems made back then. Going from the Heathkit to the Atari to the NES to the SuperNES to the N64 . . . these were massive improvements. Playstation’s going to come out with a PS5. How different will it really be than a PS4? VR adds things to the mix, but other than that . . . it’s not the same.

But then again, gaming was different back then. Like I said, you were okay with dying all the time. That’s why there were point totals: so you could see you were making progress. We’d play against each other to see who had the higher score. These days, I think games are much more fun, but that makes sense. They’ve had so much time to evolve and learn how to do fun right. That said, I still find the old games fun. The aesthetic, the sound, the gameplay. It’s a blast to go back and remember what it all used to be like.

What was your favorite game from back then? What system did you start out on?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Thoughts on Magic the Gathering: Arena

I’ve been in the alpha and beta test of MTG: Arena since last year. I’ve played about 5 games or so each day, on average. So I’m by no means a power player, but I’ve played enough to get a good feel of the game. For context, I’ve been playing Magic regularly since around 2010. I started just with tabletop, then went to my first prerelease with Avacyn Restored, in 2012. Since then, I’ve gravitated to being primarily a drafter. I have multiple commander decks and play that from time to time, but I try to get in at least one draft a week. I’ve played some standard, but while I enjoy the games, I dislike having to pay so much to get a deck I feel can compete against other decks.

However, I played Duels of the Planeswalkers extensively, followed by a ton of Magic: Duels. I had pretty much every card unlocked in Duels, to give you an idea of where I was with that. I loved being able to play Magic against other people for essentially free. I never spent any money on Duels. I earned all the cards by in-game play, and I could make any deck I wanted to, for free.

I’ve played some MTGO (Magic the Gathering Online), but again, the price tag turned me away. It’s not that I’m unwilling to spend money on Magic. I have two cubes (pauper and semi-powered), but paying money for digital cards isn’t nearly as appealing. So that hasn’t really been an avenue I’ve explored.

So I think I’m a fairly big target for the audience of Arena, Magic’s latest foray into the digital realm. I’ve followed the fan discussion boards, and I’ve been surprised at the amount of whining coming from many fan sectors. The biggest complaint at the moment is the economy. They feel it’s too expensive to get new cards. At the moment, buying a pack of 8 cards costs 1000 coins. You can get around 1000 coins each day by playing matches and completing quests, so you can get a pack every day. Each pack has a mythic or rare, two uncommons, and five commons.

The complaint is that to build tier 1 decks takes too many mythic and rare cards, and it’ll take too long to get there. Some fans are saying the game will be a colossal failure because of this imbalance. To which I say, “Whatever.”

Without spending any money, I’ve build a basic Red Deck Wins deck that I went 7-2 with last night in “Quick Constructed.” That’s a format where you pay 500 coins to enter and then win prizes based on how many wins you can get before you get 3 losses. (It maxes out at 7 wins, at which point you get 1000 coins plus three cards, which will be at least 2 uncommons and 1 rare, maybe better. I won two mythics and a rare for my 7 wins.) Yes, I’m an experienced player, but my deck wasn’t full of just mythics and rares. (Though it had plenty: 4 Hazorets, 4 Earthshaker Kenras, 3 Rampaging Ferocidons, 1 Rekindling Phoenix. So 5 mythics and 7 rares, give or take.)

With that basic deck, I can earn more coins the same way I did yesterday. For 5000 coins, I’ll be able to draft soon. With each draft, I’ll get 3 packs of 14 cards, plus 1-3 8 card packs as prizes, plus more currency to spend. Do I prefer to play RDW each game? No. But I’m certainly willing to play a bit of it to earn cards so I can start fleshing out my collection and working my way to other decks I can play and enjoy. Also, since the game only supports best of 1 matches right now (remember: still in beta!), I feel RDW is the best way to take advantage of the format. You’re incentivized to get matches done quickly each day so you can max your wins. But that’s just a stage for me. I’ll get beyond that to where I have decks good enough to compete with other archetypes.

In other words, I think I’ll be able to play Magic for free, online, whenever I want to, with a great interface, and minimal issues. This is fantastic. The game is miles better than Duels. It’s responsive and intuitive (for the most part). Yes, it still has bugs. It’s in beta test. It’s only available on PC at the moment, but there are plans for Mac and phones to be supported in the future.

The longest I ever wait to play a match, even with this smaller pool, is about 15 seconds. It’s true that sometimes those matches are unbalanced. I’ll be up against someone with a much better deck, or a much worse deck. But that comes with the territory of having a smaller pool of players since it’s still in beta.

I honestly don’t understand some segments of the player community at times. It’s as if they expect a game to be fully fleshed out and comparable to other games that have been refined for years. And then when their suggestions aren’t immediately incorporated, they freak out. Most of the criticism I’ve seen levied at the game has been baseless or overblown. The game is still being refined, but I see a lot of promise to it.

So if you have a PC and can score an invite to the beta, I encourage you to check it out. I’ve loved my time with the game so far, and I can’t wait for the drafting to begin later this week.

If you have any questions about the game, I’d be happy to answer them.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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