Gaming without your brother

Monthly Archives: May 2015

Yesterday I was torn between streaming Monaco or Mark of the Ninja. In the end, technical reasons forced me to roll with Mark of the Ninja and I thought “hey, you know what? This is great. I saw this game in person at PAX 2012 in the Indie 10, and I thought it looked rad, and now I am finally allowing myself to play it. This is gonna be great; let’s do this!” Can you read all the fake pep? Can you decipher my lies better than I can myself? Here’s the thing – I know I hate stealth. I have always hated stealth. And I knew Mark of the Ninja has gotten oodles of praise for it’s comprehensive and impressive implementation of a great stealth system. So how was this really going to go, huh? COME ON, LAURIE. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF.

Sure enough, I lacked all patience. I would spawn and run blindly at obstacles and difficult enemies over and over and over until I would throw my hands up and say “I must be doing it wrong! I must need to Google it!” then I would try to speed-Google a solution, on-stream, on my phone, realize I can’t because there are no level names visible when I pause the game and I have no idea where I am, then go back and due to the very brief rest I gave my mind and muscle memory, I would be able to get through to the next checkpoint without dying. Sure the assassinations were so deeply, profoundly satisfying (top notch animations and sound effects, fo’ sho’) but all the in between of trying to sneak up to someone to kill them, etc – no thanks.

Photo from Cinemablend
Photo from Cinemablend

I knew this when I played The Last of Us only until Joel and Ellie got to the town with the crazy guy and I had to stealth through the graveyard and the houses to the bus yard at the school and I died so many times I stopped playing until I got the game again, remastered, with my new PS4 at the end of last year. I don’t have the patience for stealth, which is indicative of the very little patience I have for most things in my life. And yet. Here I was. Again. And the “why” finally dawned on me after I slogged through a (to be honest) mediocre stream of the entirety of Mark of the Ninja.

I am deeply impressed by stealth game mechanics and systems. There is honestly so much technical precision that goes in to very well made stealth games, it’s remarkable. The genre itself hones so closely down on level design and character/NPC interactions, I think I subconciously want to observe it all but subsequently hate it all the way through. Even when I was at the peak of frustration with Mark of the Ninja I said out loud “But I mean . . . I still want to finish it.” And despite my lack of skill or interest in games like Bloodborne or Dark Souls, I believe the entire genre of stealth is at it’s best when it’s most punishing. Unlike the pandering flip-flopping of Assassin’s CreedMark of the Ninja does not allow multiple play types. Sure there are multiple paths and different strategies to implement your stealth throughout rooms during a level but at the end of every experience, you had to be the ninja. You never really have to be an assassin with Ubisoft.

I’m ecstatic to never play Mark of the Ninja ever again. I’m also ecstatic to recommend it to every stealth game lover I know. I’m also ecstatic that I got to experience a quintessential stealth experience in a polished, satisfying, beautiful indie game. Now please, critically acclaimed stealth games – never sneak your way into my life again.


One week down! And in a week of streaming, I’ve had an amazing blast (albeit not the most consistent schedule but it’ll get better) and I’m just looking to move onward and upward!

The first improvement idea I’ve had bouncing around my brain is doing some older games, not just because they’re most easily accessible but also because I love the ones I’ve already played and there are some old ones I never finished playing (for shame). So here’s where the brain trust (you guys) come in: is a stream day dedicated to Flashback Friday/Throwback Thursday too hackneyed? Do you imagine people would be okay with getting through an old game only one day a week at a time? Does that sound like something you guys would be interested in? Fill out the poll and let me know!

If you have ideas, more thoughts, or more suggestions on stream improvements, I’m BEGGING you to leave a comment or tweet at me or email me! Thanks, friends!


When I was planning what to play on my 3rd day of full-time Twitch streaming, I was at a loss. I had decided to start two days earlier with Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor but after lackluster intro content (including tutorials) and visuals that disappoint for just having come out in 2015, I wasn’t engaged and excited to play the game, and therefore put out fairly poor stream.

The next day, I decided to finally give The Banner Saga a shot and while the visuals and music and emotion of the game were portrayed excellently, it just didn’t seem like the type of game that would give a good stream experience and I wasn’t particularly excited to continue playing it. Did I mention that I am also just abhorrently bad at tactics games and brought my usual talent to The Banner Saga? Yeah.

So there I was, needing something to really pep up the “Past Broadcasts” on my channel. And then I stumbled over Dust: An Elysian Tail in my Steam library. It was in my wheelhouse – platformer, button masher, indie, great art, jammin’ tunes. This was my time to shine.

And bless Dust‘s heart, it totally worked! I had a blast playing the game during the past 3 streams and finishing it up last night. I might stream it a 4th time to wrap up the 117%. Which is actually a perfect segue to the nostalgia-laced trip it was in this final stream. SPOILERS ABOUT THE SECRET FRIEND COLLECTIBLES AHEAD (no main story line spoilers) (oh and 117% was the full completion percentage of Spyro so . . . nostalgia).

A kind Twitch passerby stopped to watch the stream and while we were chatting back and forth about the game, which he loves to death, we were talking about all of the extra “secret friends” you can get by unlocking special chests throughout the different regions. I had already collected Super Meat Boy, Howard the Duck*, and the main male character of Spelunky. He was super in to helping me find the rest of the secret friends before I called it quits on the game (I’m not generally in to collecting achievements or completion percentages for Steam games and I was playing on Steam) so I beat the story mode and then together (via chat) we started going through the game to unlock all the secret friends.

The first secret friend the Twitch chat lead me to was Bandage Girl, also from Super Meat Boy. When I unlocked Super Meat Boy himself, I was tickled pink. It was an obviously frivolous addition to the game, but at the same time, it was the perfect level of non-committal to making the game different in anyway. And it wasn’t a super dose of nostalgia. If anything, I read the secret friends in the game as nods to great indie games of our generation.

I got some others, including the female Spelunky character which made me smile wide, but I also kept thinking about the beginning of the game. The first time you hack down a wall a “Mysterious Wall Chicken” pops out, which when eaten grants back 80 health. The first time that happened I also laughed out loud because come on – Castlevania! Why the hell was cooked poultry popping out of the walls in that game? No one knows, and Dust made me laugh about it.

Later in the night I got to a secret room and I couldn’t quit tell for the first few jumps what this room was hailing to until I realized that the music and particle effects were only moving when I moved. I was about to unlock Tim from Braid. Perfect. What a masterful game to quote in a game that might not be on par with Braid but one that perhaps acknowledges it and doesn’t feel bad for falling short. Later there was an area that populated isometric-view blocks as you ran forward. Bastion. And the final secret friend I unlocked was in a pixel area with three brain-busting puzzles to get through. Fez. The whole time my smile was growing as I was shaking my head. This is the way homage is intended to be. A slight tip of the hat, a comfortable acknowledgement of past greatness, and a shrug at the naysayers who don’t like what they’re playing as much as what they played before. This was perhaps the first game I had played that didn’t feel like it was pandering but was instead honoring. And that is 100% the nostalgia I can get behind.

While the story had some facepalm moments and the voice acting was a bit try-hard at times, the gameplay, the art, the BluePrint system, and the music all made this some of the most enjoyable 14 hours I’ve dumped into an indie arcade in my life. If I play a game that has some Dust easter eggs in the future, I’ll tip my hat, smile, and remember fondly what came before.

*I googled this to make sure I was saying the right thing because I don’t know my Marvel lore and don’t know anything about Howard the Duck, but lo and behold this was actually someone named Hyperduck? Which makes more sense when they both become Daft Punk. . . But anyway, I’m going to keep calling him Howard the Duck because I don’t know who Hyperduck is either. Sorry.


I bought The Banner Saga when I was still actively engaged in the Go For Rainbow podcast; one of my co-hosts talked about how much he really loved the game. In addition to his personal endorsement, it seems to me that it was always just one of those indie games that I was hearing about, all around. Therefore it seemed like a great reason to pick it up and give it a whirl. A few months ago, I took to Twitter to ask what game I should play – The Banner Saga or some other game, which is what I ended up playing. But in response to the tweet, Stoic Studios (creators of the game) replied to me and said “Banner Saga but we might be biased ;)” which further confirms that it was a game worth giving a shot.

Two days ago I streamed a 4 hour chunk of the game (twitch.tv/LittleSisGaming) and got through that first part of it, although I have to say it kind of felt like I was towards the end of the game. I realized it was odd that I had heard so much low-grade hubbub about the game but never ended up watching any of it in Let’s Plays or anything. The slight surprise in my voice when I see that it’s a tactics game was audible, heh. I thought it was the end of the game because it was the last battle of a large city, and while HowLongToBeat.com said the game should take about 11 hours, I was playing HORRIBLY and lost most of the tactics battles (which lead me to hypothesize that maybe you go through the game faster if you’re just constantly losing, heh).

Far and away, the game is beautiful – in it’s visual art, music, and storyline. Playing it in a small room with multiple lights, I can’t lie that the rising temperature might have been bringing my energy and engagement level down a little bit. Even still, the game is primarily working through a choose-your-own-adventure, watching simple 2D animations, and the exact same gameplay (including the exact same enemies) for the whole game. It dawned on me though that this might be an instance of proceduralism in games, whether intended or not.

Proceduralism (i.e. procedural rhetoric) in games refers to the mechanics of the game enforcing the feel or message of a game, rather than just the visual assets or visual style, or the written dialogue or exposition. One of the primary examples is a game called “The Marriage” – the mechanics of the game reinforce the message from the creator, that marriage gives and takes and the two “characters” balance their existence together, affecting each other. It isn’t just that there is a narrative point-and-click adventure (for example) trying to capture the struggle of a balanced partnership in marriage – the player has to actually struggle with it while navigating external factors.

To be honest, I doubt Stoic Studios was aiming for proceduralism, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the aesthetic they were aiming for included a little bit of mid-game drudgery to further communicate the trudging through snow at the end of the world scenario in The Banner Saga. Is there a space for that kind of game in the commercial world? Usually proceduralist games are hyper-indie – art games, really. Could there be space for a game where the mechanics are unenjoyable because they’re communicating something deeper than “Play game, have fun”? It’s an interesting question; I doubt the AAA space will ever get there but entertainment indies could be approaching. Let me know what you think in the comments; I’m interested to hear some different opinions about proceduralism and The Banner Saga!


The past two weeks have been kind of amazing. I wrapped up my semester, I got all of my new hardware to build my new AMD PC, the motherboard and/or CPU pooped out on me, so I replaced the motherboard, got the second one yesterday, and it also didn’t work, so it might be both again, or maybe it’s been the CPU the whole time? I dunno but what a whirlwind big city adventure (read: highly annoying and I’ve wanted to pull out my hair everyday and I might have actually shed a tear or three yesterday because I was so. damn. frustrated). But I channeled one of my favorite adages – done is better than perfect.

So instead of waiting for replacement parts, we’re running with Twitch TODAY! On my laptop. Which is super beefy, to it’s credit, but you know – smaller monitor, OBS has problems recording the monitor which is poopy for PC games, etc. etc. BUT WE’RE DOING IT ANYWAY! Done is better than perfect. And to be clear, I worked out OBS so the recording will be great.

Today I’ll be going live with Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor around 3pm Mountain Time (which is also 2pm Pacific Time if that helps anyone). In the future, I plan to stream for about 3 to 4 hours, but today I have a DND campaign to get to at 6pm so I’ll be cutting it around 5:30pm. AND this will all be on twitch.tv/littlesisgaming (different from where I streamed all my Extra Life stuff last year so take note). Can you believe the full sister URL/username was taken? Boo.

My schedule moving forward is Tuesday through Saturday, 3pm (Mountain Time) to whenever I feel like stopping, but most likely for at least 4 hours. And that’s Twitch! The lighting it subpar, the mic is good enough, and the setup on my end is a hodgepodge of cords and balancing monitors on books and speakers, but IT WORKS! And done is better than perfect.

Can’t wait to catch some of you this afternoon!


Last week I decided it was about time to finally put Battleblock Theater to rest on my Xbox 360. I love Castle Crashers, I loved Battleblock Theater when I started playing it, but never put it at the top of my list of games to finish. When I got my PS4 I thought I would never pick up my 360 again because the PS4 was just so damn pretty. Little did I realize when I made the jump to Playstation that my ISP (Comcast) blocked HBO Go on Sony devices which meant we had to keep watching Game of Thrones on my 360 (obligatory reference to Comcast being the devil). AND THUS the last gen console was on, I was browsing my games, and I booted up Battleblock Theater again.

After I got through the campaign I decided to try to go for some achievements because I was here, I was halfway through them anyway, and most of them seemed pretty easy to get in multiplayer. I rarely play multiplayer in games, even co-op. I get self-conscious about how I’m performing as a teammate or even as an opponent. When people leave a match midway, I wonder if they were disgusted with me and so frustrated they left. I realize how self-centered that all sounds, and believe me I’m working on it, but those are the general reasons why I don’t play games online. I also mostly expected that when I would try to get into multiplayer it wouldn’t match me with anyone since the game is years old. Much to my surprise, I jumped into a quick match almost immediately. And there were no emotes or chat, so I couldn’t be harassed even if someone wanted to harass me! Ya hoo! Small victories!

As I kept getting matched with new team members and new opponents, I was also trying to trade with everyone (one of the achievements is to trade with 10 different people) and I realized I was actually enjoying multiplayer. It was low risk, low cost if I messed up, and we just bounce from one match to the next so there were quick chances to redeem myself. Some multiplayer achievements include playing and rating 10 user-created levels, winning 100 matches, and win one match in every multiplayer mode. As I was whittling away at the list I realized one secret multiplayer achievement is to kill a team mate at least 50 times. I laughed to myself and decided I would just jump in to some quick matches to get the achievement. I was sure I was fairly close already, through doing half the game in co-op with my brother when I first bought it, and from accidentally killing my team mates enough times throughout matches when I was actively trying to win.

What I didn’t really expect is how bad I’d feel every time I threw a fireball to light my own team mate on fire. This person was legitimately trying to win the match, win their own achievements, and I was being the trolling asshole. I felt as if their frustration was palpable. Afterwards I took a step back and realized how affected I was by someone with a gamertag I didn’t even know. I dunno, I guess there isn’t really more depth to this thought at the moment. It hailed back to some thoughts I had while playing Journey, and the MOBA Smite, but in short – it kind of boggles my mind how game developers have struck on something as simple as “make two players match colors and inherently there will be a bond that will promote a certain path of player behavior.” I suppose that was struck upon before game developers though – just by people developing corporate strategy or team building exercises or education or . . . many other applications.

Like I said this is actually the tip of the iceberg on my wonderment and the relationship that can be created between strangers online. I’d like to re-play Journey and write up how amazeballs I think it is. I think my next installment in the near term though is going to be about the deep dark world of MOBAs that I’ve fallen into. Leave a comment if you’ve had a similar relationship with someone if just for a brief moment while playing silently together online; I’m really curious about this social phenomenon and would love to hear more about other people’s experiences!


I was updating my HowLongToBeat.com profile with games I got and have just tacked on to my already massive backlog. Mostly this meant adding the PS Plus games I’ve gotten since I bought my PS4 on Black Friday. I realized that I’ve crossed the threshold where I can’t see all of my games on my dashboard any more. As I meandered through my library, I noticed there were a number of PS Plus games that I enjoyed but never finished playing through. It hit me that I never kept playing OlliOlli2, so I started it up and settled in to the tutorials to remembered the first time I tried it.

My friend Paul had told me that it wasn’t on the list of free games that pops up for PS4 because it was one of the cross buys. When I found it and played it, I found him the next day and gushed about how fun it was, and how it was obvious (it a great way) how it was made by people that played Tony Hawk as kids and have since grown up.

One of the most notable features of Tony Hawk is its soundtrack. Alternative to most at the time, or at least the crowd that was playing Tony Hawk, you can talk to most anyone who played the Tony Hawk series in middle school or high school and they will tell you it was ear opening. And I agree – although I didn’t go on to buy the soundtrack or even albums from the featured artists, it made me realize that every genre had something to offer and to shut my fat mouth unless I had actually listened to whatever someone was saying was the best music on earth (instead of being the punk saying that rap/country/metal/whatever sucked).

As I worked my way through the beginning levels of OlliOlli2, those same ear tingles hit me. This, was a damn good soundtrack:

It funky, it’s fresh, it’s underground, it’s perfect to get in a zone to. And I think that last part has particular importance for a game of skill, like OlliOlli2. It has to be something you can grind to (HA) without afterthought. While that’s possible to most music, I think this soundtrack in perfectly suited for it.

The other throwback to Tony Hawk that I found while playing OlliOlli2 was the simplicity of the controls. Tony Hawk never did anything crazy with button combos, you just had to time it all to make it happen. And don’t get me wrong, OlliOlli2 is definitely a more difficult game than any Tony Hawk iteration, but the controls are easy and grok-able. To me, that shows the genius of the developers, Roll7.

All of us that played Tony Hawk as kids think we want to play Tony Hawk again. I personally am looking forward to the new installment that was just announced. But do we really want the same experience? It’ll be enjoyable, no doubt, but I think nostalgia hype will ultimately die as a trend because we all crave something new, something original. If we got a game as straight forward as Tony Hawk, it wouldn’t be as fulfilling.

The hole that gets shot through that observation is that the game is a 2D sidescroller with pixel art . . . and that I think does hail to the nostalgia hype. I don’t hate it, I don’t hate the nostalgia hype, but I there’s definitely a limit. And it’s not out of place, right? If you want a 2D side scrolling skate game, because that will require pixel precision execution of moves and combos, then sure – make it pixel art. Can’t argue with the design choice there.

I still have yet to finish just getting through all the stages. And it is a damn hard game. Don’t get me wrong, you will rage quit. But it’s a wonderful, whole experience – from the music to the combos to the art. If you loved Tony Hawk you deserve to give OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood a chance.