Gaming without your brother

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Too much gaming, no time to write! So, here’s a quick run down of thoughts on all the gaming I’ve done since I built my PC:

First, building that thing was so fun. It was the best of both worlds – getting to work with my hands and getting to work with a mouse and keyboard. I had a few problems getting the motherboard to recognize my GPU, but I figured it out and now it’s running like a champ. I will say, I used the stock thermal paste that came on my stock heatsink, and the CPU runs pretty hot sometimes. My first update purchase will probably be thermal paste. Then maybe more fans (the case only came with one! My one complaint about that Cooler Master case). Aside from that, I think the weak link in my setup is my motherboard but that’ll take me longer to replace just because I don’t know if I want the hassle, particularly because my rig is running like a CHAMP! So true, it’s worth saying twice. I’ve never seen games run on “Very High” graphic settings in real life before. Only in videos. Beautiful. Also, all on my 32” HDTV. This is heaven, as Jimmy Eat World once said.

The Friday that my final PC pieces arrived, I was geeking out checking the shipping logs online at work and my boss asked me what game I would first christen my system with. I had never even considered it! I logged into my Steam library to give it some good hard thought and settled on Dragon Age: Origins. It’s my oldest game in my library that I still haven’t played because I bought it when it was on sale and my laptop could barely run it. As I built my machine that night, I was getting bored waiting for Windows updates and I opened a game of Mahjong, which I later realized was truly the first game I played on the PC. Highly disappointing, unless you’re my mom, then it’s really great.

DAMN you, Mahjong! You've tricked me for the last time!

DAMN you, Mahjong! You’ve tricked me for the last time!

Anyway, Saturday morning I was troubleshooting some last software stuff when I finally got to business playing Dragon Age Saturday afternoon. I had attempted to play through this game when I first bought it, but my laptop was struggling so hard I didn’t get very far. But after a few hours of play, I’m just about where I stopped the first time around and let me say: it is slow going. I’ve heard great things about this game, so I’ll power through. The combat I enjoy because although there are some really tough bosses, the strategy aspect of being able to pause and assign characters actions helps a lot. I’m also looking forward to trying out a different race at some point to see how different things really are.

But while I was playing Dragon Age, I made sure I was downloading other games at all times. But every time a game was finished downloading from my library, I thought “Oooh, I wonder how that will look” and I’d take a break and start playing another game. I finally downloaded and tried out StarCraft II (which is the first StarCraft game I’ve ever played). I enjoyed it so much that when the starter edition ended, I straight up bought the rest of the game. The original World of WarCraft games were RTS and I remember loving those so even though I didn’t have a lot of time logged to justify my $40 purchase of the rest of the game, I am nearly positive I’ll enjoy the time I get out of it. Plus, it was more of a social purchase. Everyone I know and their dogs play SCII so I need to start getting my game on. Anyway, great graphics, very fun voice acting, I have no idea what’s going on in the story in relation to the original SC but . . . great graphics!

Protoss? Kerrigan? Zerg? Sure, whatever.

Protoss? Kerrigan? Zerg? Sure, whatever.

I had to check out Team Fortress 2 on the big screen (big by my standards . . .) and with a faster processor. Holy. Crap. It’s like a different game! No lag, just blowing people away without hesitation! Seriously fun. The problem is becoming that I have too many awesome games to play, and now am always in a conundrum of what to start.

I should make this useful, instead of commenting on old games. I did try out a demo for A Valley Without Wind which . . . I somehow thought looked amazing from a gameplay demo I saw months ago. False, it is not. Boring, too much going on, a really expansive world but constant hints throughout tell you not to waste your time exploring everything . . . ? More time should’ve been spent on the graphics and gameplay instead of the map, frankly. Don’t waste your time on it. I didn’t even finish the demo, I just quit after a few hours.

But! Best demo of the week aware goes to A Book of Unwritten Tales! I saw this on Steam a few weeks ago and thought it looked pretty cute, lots of tongue-in-cheek humor about gaming and fantasy tropes. I downloaded the demo and finally played it last week. Hilarious! Superb voice acting, a highly polished visual presentation, and humor all over the place. The gameplay is your standard point-and-click adventure game, lots of repetitive walking and puzzling, which I’m not a big fan of. For that reason, I’ll wait until this goes on sale (it’s currently $20) but it’s available on Steam and so . . . go nuts if you’d like! I highly recommend at least trying the demo, which had me laughing out loud.

This is the ship that Death lives on, depressed that no one dies in the game.

This is the ship that Death lives on, depressed that no one dies in the game.

Reviews you can expect in the future now that I can play some old and Steam purchases: Myst! (never played it, we’ll see how much I can do without googling like an idiot), Commander Keen! (this game IS my childhood. All Commander Keen games were just $4 during the QuakeCon sale on Steam last weekend), and if I can ever kill that ——- piece of —- devil —— stupid —– DURIEL, I’ll write about Diablo II sometime soon (also beautiful on the big screen, if for no other reason than I can see things for once, instead of squinting at a 14” screen. Also need to finish and write about Lands of Lore, so I can get rolling on Legend of Grimrock! (thanks, Steam Summer Sale!)

Ugh . . . DURIEL.

My rage is unquenchable. Even eventually killing this devil will not satiate my desire to obliterate it from existence, from ALL FUTURE DIABLO II GAMES!

My rage is unquenchable. Even eventually killing this devil will not satiate my desire to obliterate it from existence, from ALL FUTURE DIABLO II GAMES!

I’ve heard the name Rayman for ages and never had the dough to give the series a whirl. I had heard Rayman: Origins for the Wii (released in 2011) was the best one yet, and I thought what I saw during Ubisoft’s E3 demonstration looked pretty cool for the next installment in the series. So read my mind and put 1-3 on sale this past weekend so I could blow $6 (which if you’re as poor as I am, that should be going towards bills or something lame) and give the series a try out.

Rayman Forever is the title of the first installment, and everything I thought and subsequently write while playing has to be taken with a grain of salt because the game was released in 1995. Instantly I love the adorable protagonist with his floppy hair and handkerchief around his neck. So French. The music throughout is sparse and when it does pop up it’s relaxing and light. Of course, I haven’t gotten that far in it but I did listen to the soundtrack thanks to the bonus material that came with my purchase. Additionally, I liked the incremental powers. First I could punch, then I could hang on ledges. I thought it was a smart way to prolong the introductory levels a little bit. Overall, it was fun. Very 1995 gaming, what can I say?

Look at that bad mama jamma with his floppy hair!

Look at that bad mama jamma with his floppy hair!

And if you don’t know what I mean by that . . . think the Aladdin game. Gameplay from the mid-90s is all about jumping across platforms to beat levels, hanging from ledges is a big deal, you can do a few auxiliary moves like throwing things, and the art is very cartoon-y. Personally, I love it, which might just be nostalgia from becoming cognizant of video games for the first time around 1995, but it was also just a great stepping stone to the great animation and 3D build-up we got in the N64 just a few short years later.

But for all of that nostalgia, I did have some beefs with Rayman Forever. We’re given no background to our little Frenchman! I have no idea why he’s punching creatures or why he wears his scarf or why I’m trying to fight my way through this place. Additionally, for all of the great things about gaming in the mid-90s, it was still pretty difficult, like many of the early NES games. I get bounched back when I get hit by something but bouncing me back puts me straight in the water which is insta-death. Not cool, Ubisoft. And 1995 games had their place in 1995. In 2012, I was getting a little bored and was hoping the next installment would be a little more engaging.

Ef everything about those stupid monsters with teeth. EF THEM.

Ef everything about those stupid monsters with teeth. EF THEM.

I had actually decided to wait to buy the other two Rayman games until I had a decision about #1. Skeptical of my own boredom with the game, I read about Rayman 2: The Great Escape’s reception when it was released in 1999. Wikipedia said it won awards and sold millions of copies, so I knew I was at least in for game numero deux (that’s right, I know French). And I was thoroughly delighted with my purchase. The classic N64 block style on the cusp of making graphics actually look good (maybe not quite to the cusp, but . . . approaching it) brought back a flood of memories playing Goldeneye, Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Star Fox 64, and others. I liked the backstory I was given, the puzzles, and the music was still great, albeit a little more prevalent and exciting.

The “voice acting” is a little disconcerting because sometimes I feel like the characters are cursing me under their breath . . . but otherwise, this game is 100% a great purchase. I may never revisit Rayman Forever, but I plan on playing Rayman 2: The Great Escape all the way to the finish. If you want to “start at the beginning” of the series, I’d recommend just starting with #2. However, the one thing that #1 did provide me some backstory on was Rayman “gaining” his powers (which he has to do again in the beginning of #2). I recognized that as a nod to the previous game, and appreciated it.

Look at those hard edges! Nothing quite like the choppy 3D of the N64 to bring back the memories

Look at those hard edges! Nothing quite like the choppy 3D of the N64 to bring back the memories

I did purchase, Hoodlum Havoc and was excited to give it a go last night for a few hours but unfortunately I ran into some technical difficulties. However, I’m really trying to stay on this three-posts-a-week bandwagon, so I figured I’d regale and delight you all with the first two games and my thoughts instead of prolonging the post and waiting for support to get back to me. All in all, this was a fun romp in the past to cover some old games that actually weren’t on my list but are considered by many to be classics as well.

Have you guys played any of the Rayman series? Thoughts? Hate ’em? Love ’em? Leave a comment!

I just had to google spelunking because I was unconvinced that it could really just mean exploring caves (which my prior knowledge was trying to tell me was true). It’s true – spelunking is just looking around caves.

Anyway, I’ve purchased the last 3 Humble Indie Bundles (I should’ve posted about 5 because it was so amazing, but hopefully you owned all the games already) and have played . . . an embarrassingly low number of those games. Additional sadness came today when I realized I haven’t listened to the soundtracks from those games or those from my games. The other day I received a recommendation to try out Cave Story for it’s awesome Metroidvania style of gameplay so I downloaded it and gave it a whirl.

Spoiler alert: it's pretty sweet.

Spoiler alert: it’s pretty sweet.

First thing I noticed was the music. The music behind the opening menu is fantastic! And as I’ve kept playing through the game, the music stays great, but I think my favorite thus far is still the opening theme (to be fair, I’m not really that far). The second thing that I had to notice was the old school art style. Gotta love the classics.

The story took me a minute to get into, I didn’t find myself really caring about Sue or any of these Mimigas for awhile. I was surprised, but maybe shouldn’t have been, by the freedom the game offers. I suppose I associate that art style with older games that stereotypically didn’t give much freedom. Someone was in trouble, you agreed to help them, if you don’t, they kept asking until you said yes, they were grateful. Bad guy asked are you ready to rumble, you said no, and he attacked anyway. Those types of situations. The first “mini boss” you run into asks if you want to fight, so just to try it out, I said no, and he left. Again, that kind of player-driven plot is really the norm in gaming now, right? But it pleasantly surprised me in Cave Story all the same.

My beef? The controls. I like the simplicity, but something about the jump took me longer than it should have to master. And while I love self-deprecation and admitting my own ridiculousness, I felt like I was pressing that damn key just like I should have and the jump wasn’t going as far as it was supposed to. Having said that, every game has a learning curve of varying gradations to get comfortable with the controls, so now I’m a jumping master.

No one tells you the down arrow does stuff!

No one tells you the down arrow does stuff! I mean, maybe they explained it in the beginning, and I pressed ‘Z’ too many times too quickly to read what they were telling me. But I took a few minutes in this room to figure out the floppy and the heart monitor, embarrassingly enough.

I’m getting more and more invested in this game. I realized I needed to take a break to write this and get started on Rayman ( weekend sale on the first 3 Rayman games, if you’re interested, and other really great games actually. This a good weekend sale on the site).

If you tried Cave Story in the past and didn’t get hooked, maybe give it a little more time to whet your whistle. If you tried Cave Story in the past and played for a long time and hated it, leave a comment because I’d love to hear your critiques. If you tried Cave Story in the past and loved it, then good on ya. If you tried – nah, I’m just kidding, I’ll stop doing that repetition-in-the-beginning-of-the-sentence thing. But seriously, give Cave Story a first or maybe second chance, and be sure to leave a comment about what you think!

So I committed to playing LttP, and I even got through a good chunk of it, and then I thought “meh, I don’t want to play this right now.” And as I started trying to think of other games to play, I started hearing the small voice in the back of my head saying “You must finish LttP! You must post a blog about it!”


I imagine the voice in my head like Navi. And I hate it.

This is atrocious to say but last week I didn’t game at all. AT ALL. And as you can see, I also didn’t blog. Because of this damn nagging voice in my head! And then, at the end of last week (before I went away for the weekend which prohibited gaming or blogging), it dawned on me: gaming is not a chore.

Along the same line, this blog is not a chore. This blog is awesome. Gaming is awesome. And they’re awesome because I’m deciding what I write, when I write it, what I play, and when I play it. So last week when had a sale and I bought Lands of Lore 1 & 2 (LoL 1 being perhaps THE quintessential game of my childhood that I’ve never finished) and desperately wanted to jump right in? I could’ve, and I should’ve. So shut up, brain voice. No one likes you. You make gaming and blogging un-fun and I have no room for that in my life.

I’m gonna go play a classic dungeon crawler by Westwood Studios. See you guys in a few days when I’m so excited about it that I’ll write a blog post.