The Witch’s House

It’s the season for it, right? Picking up some good, spookifying tales of your medium of choice. Seems to be one of the funnest things about fall for a lot of people.

This year around, even I, who am convinced that time is an illusion created by the greeting card industry, got into the horror season. Now, I’ve had an odd relationship with the horror genre. I really can’t put my finger on why, but I just stopped feeling it. Haven’t been getting the thrill, chills, and spills that people so much enjoy about it. Even so, I wanted to revisit those feelings this year. See if I could find a hint of that point of being deliciously disturbed.

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So I picked up the Witch’s House. Freeware puzzle horror game made in RPG Maker by Fummy, officially translated into English by vgperson. “Freeware RPG Maker horror game?” I hear you ask. “Those are all over the place. What makes this one so unique.” Just hold your horses. I’m getting to that. Patience is a virtue, you know.

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A while back, I mentioned my quest to beat all the games by console generation, and how close I was to filling out the PlayCubeBox 2 generation that I’ve been working on for so long I really don’t want to admit it. Just as a means of keeping myself honest, I thought I’d run an update on that, as well as what else I’ve been up to gaming-wise. This might end up being like a regular thing. I don’t know. We’ll find out how much it amuses me.

The Recently Conquered

Tales of the Abyss

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Tales of the Abyss is fantastic. I mentioned that last time, so no surprises there. I used a guide this time, and nearly 100%’ed the game. Beat the super tough bonus boss, got nearly all the extra costumes and what not, still fantastic.

Story-wise, it’ll be the subject of an upcoming post. Just need some time to sort through my thoughts on it. Tales games always have unique and interesting twists on typical storytelling tropes, and Tales of the Abyss did not disappoint. So yes. We will have words on this.

Summoner 2: A Goddess Reborn

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I mentioned that I was pretty surprised at actually having a good time with Summoner 2. That kept up most of the game. The beginning is a giant dreg. When you start building up in power, though, and start getting a lot more options in combat, it starts getting pretty fun, and it stays that way right up until the end game starts through a bunch of bullhonky at you. It actually gets more fun as you get more and more overpowered compared to your enemies, as you get to do more than what the horribly clumsy battle system is equipped to allow.

Of course, the final battle did lose a lot of impact by the fact that both the boss and your character were too big for the dumb camera to actually show what you or it was doing. Playtest your games, people.

The Bouncer

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This came out in an era in which Square just was no good at making games that weren’t turn-based. And it shows. The Bouncer is clumsy and feels slower than its game-type should be. But I still love it. I’m pretty sure that all just comes from good memories. I was introduced to this game over the course of a rather long night co-oping with a good friend of mine, and it’s always been very charming to me since.

I think it also helps that the game is really not long, unless you play it through three times in a row like they want you to. If you had to spend more than a couple hours on it, the games problems would get to be a lot more irritating, but as is, you’re in and out before it starts to wear on you. Kind of like my love life, in that.

Half-Life

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I really tried with this. I wanted to finally beat it. And I did everything I could. Took it as long as I could naturally, then worked in the invincibility cheat, and continued on from there. Finished up the dumb rotating teleporter mazes and all. Then, just as we were about to hit a climax, I started running into a persistent bug that continually reloaded a corrupted save. Impossible to continue, I had to end it. They did really try with the PS2 port of it, but the controls weren’t really working for me, and the glitches ended up killing it. A shame.
Although in good news, the internet says I was forced out before the worst part of the game. So it’s not all bad, right?

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Star Ocean: Till the End of Time

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I’d played this before, but apparently I never gave it a real chance. Didn’t realize it, but I got farther in this game than I ever had before in only two playsessions.

It’s a decent setting. A really heavy mix of soft political sci-fi with pretty classic fantasy. I’m really digging it. It’s getting my imagination going in a way that only happens occasionally in these games, mentally exploring the world beyond just what I’m shown.

That said, I mentioned last time I wasn’t too enthused for this game, and that’s held up. It’s the battle system, mostly. Reminds me a lot of the Tales series, except it’s really not as good. A lot more 3D, but your moves are more limited, and that Fury system they have governing your combat is just a pain. In short, attacking costs you Fury, standing still builds it back up. If your Fury is full, you’re immune to light attacks, but you get a heavy Fury penalty if hit with a hard one. Thus far, it’s a system that seems to be entirely in the CPU’s favor, when it impacts the battle at all

I’m hoping that this is a game that’s going to be like Summoner 2 was, in that it gets demonstrably better as I get more powerful and more options open up. It’s showing the initial signs of that, at least. It better. I’ve got another 30-40 hours to go on it.

Simpsons: Hit and Run

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I don’t really have much to say here that I didn’t last time. It’s better than you’d expect, but I think I might have had the old whatever-colored glasses on when I implied it was a particularly good game. It’s sound, but has it’s problems. Particularly with adding an arbitrary timer on everything. I didn’t notice it at the time, but that was a really common feature of its era. All sorts of games this console generation drop a timer on something with absolutely no justification other than gameplay. Not everything needs a failure state, folks.

Bonus Round- Planescape: Torment

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Not one of the console generation, specifically, but I picked up a number of classic games since I started this quest. I’m not requiring that I beat them before moving onto my next set of consoles like I am with all the rest, but I can’t say I’ve beat all my games without finishing these up, too, right?

In any case, Planescape and I had a rough start together. It plays a lot like Fallout, which I love like I would my own child, so that surprises me, but yeah, not a fun beginning. The opening area got to be a bit confusing as I was giving conflicting instructions on how to exit, and my opening class was chosen for me, and was the exact opposite of the one I specced myself for. You don’t have to fight very often, but when you do, it’s quite tense. Especially because it runs off of the Baldur’s Gate engine, and I really hated the combat there.

Getting a party started to turn it around for me. I’m still handling most of the situations diplomatically, but now that I can hold my own in a fight and don’t have to worry about being reset with every bad speech check, even though I’m still not fighting all that often, I’m relaxing a bit more and just enjoying the world and its quests quite a bit. I appreciate that its a game that seems built around dialogue and plot and creatively approaching problems, rather than just smashing your way through them. I really enjoy the nuanced approach.

Adventures in Social Gaming

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The first time I ever got into online multiplayer gaming was when I was just a cub. Starcraft. Good old Battle.net. One of the first games to use online multiplayer, if I recall. I think I even linked in over a dial-up connection. You know, back when those were a thing.

In any case, it took me a long time to find a game. Kept joining rooms, then getting booted before the game actually started. Eventually I did find one that kept me around, a game that advertised itself as being just for new players. Sounded perfect to me.

I did get the inkling that the game organizers were a little more experienced than they let on, which was proven right once we started the game and they went with the whole ‘Haha, got you know suckers’ bit, but I didn’t care, I just wanted to play, it didn’t matter to me that it was up against people above my skill level.

It was all well and good until the end. I ended up being the second to last player surviving, not because of any measure of skill, more for just successfully staying unnoticed while everyone else got creamed. Eventually, I was found by one of the more experienced players, my defenses were circumvented, and I was routed. Would have been all well and good, except the whole while I was under attack, the other player wouldn’t stop talking about how bad I was at the game. In rather colorful terms. He organized a trap for new players those who were by nature bad at the game, and then when he had some, just harped on how poorly the new players were.

So yeah, online multiplayer did not make a good first impression on me. What I’ve experienced with it since has not shaken that perspective. Most of the time, I’m lucky enough not to deal with assholes like that, but even so, competing with people I don’t know just doesn’t carry any value for me. If we’re friends, I’ll play with you till the sun blows up and have a blast doing it. If I don’t have any connection, I don’t get anything out of it. It’s just as satisfying to be playing against the CPU, and more productive and less dramatic to boot.

So yeah, never really enjoyed playing competitively with strangers. I’ve been wondering if that extends to cooperative play, though.

There have been games built around online co-op for a while. I just never got into it. Even back when I was big into MUDs (if you don’t know what those are, think an MMORPG run through a text parser), I still largely played independently. And those will often tie you into to a large and active group as part of the character creation process. But I never really felt it. I’d use the social aspects of it all the time, but when it was time for some actual gameplay, I went out into that big, wide open, interactive world all by myself.

Even games balance for multiple players, I’d always play alone. Castle Crashers comes to mind, there. Often took a while, often led to some frustration, but well, almost none of my friends play games, and if I wouldn’t have a connection with the person on the other side of the monitor, I just don’t really enjoy that.

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That’s starting to change with me, though. Playing with strangers. Still have no interest in competitive multiplayer, but cooperative play has been growing on me, though. That started with Left 4 Dead. I began playing that a while after Left 4 Dead 2 came out, and took all the hyperaggressive jerks in the playerbase with it. The big point in that game’s favor is that it just made it easy to play co-op. Just put a game out there, players will come in. Matchmaking was easy. And you didn’t even have to wait for it. Start your game up already, it’ll be filled with CPUs at first, seamlessly replaced with actual players as they drop in. I had bought it intending it as a single-player experience, but having it so easy to play with others convinced me to give it a try. And the other players didn’t disappoint. Honestly helpful, cooperative, and when I was first starting out, instructive, they did make for a good time, and a much deeper one than I was expecting.

Portal 2 continued that trend. I had a bit of a rocky relationship with it’s coop, but the fact that it had a whole second half of its game beyond that social barrier meant that I was going to stick it out. It took me a while, but I did get randomly matched with another player that was at my puzzle-solving level, and that lead to what was honestly one of my favorite experiences in computer gaming.

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More recently, I’ve been noticing a bunch of games picking up on drop-in Co-op. You might remember from the Dark Souls LP that I experimented a bit with it there, although I didn’t get much into it outside of offering the odd bit of help to other players. The message system, though, did save my butt a few times, and I was an active enough participant in that I hope I gave other players the same thing. Dead Rising 3 works with something similar, except I’m not in control of when other players show up to help me out. So I’ll have players just randomly popping up to mow down a few zeds with me with no rhyme or reason, just helping me out as I make my way through a grim and gritty apocalypse dressed only in an afro and a schoolgirl outfit.

And you know, I’ve been finding an odd appreciation for that. They’re not getting anything out of it, that’s just other players, taking time out of their day to join forces with me. Somehow, having no connection there does make that experience more precious. I’d still take a friend like, say, you reading this right now, over an internet weirdo any day, but still, those weirdos aren’t all that bad. Especially you.

Fallout Chapter 10: The Wheels of Justice

So, last time on Balls Out Fallout, we let you folks make a few choices. We’re hear to see the results of them today.

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First up, comes good old Iguana Bob. Hub street food vendor.  Runs a ‘family’ eating place in the most literal sense. As you may recall, we ran into one of his suppliers in Doc Morbid’s morgue back in Junktown, and found that not all of his ingredients are entirely kosher, and you guys decided that we need to shut his operation down. But there’s a bit of a problem here. The city is very well patrolled, and we’re in a rather public area. If we were to start anything with him, the guards would be on us in a flash. It’s pretty simple to piss Bob off to the point where he starts the fight himself, so we can just proactively defend ourselves against him which wouldn’t draw any of the po-pos here, but I promised to show you guys a neat trick involving a sack today.

Before we get into that, though, I want to make sure that Bob knows why he has this coming. Athena walks over and starts chatting him up.

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We start on what would be a really cool Soylent Green bit, but Bob shuts us up. Then he tries to justify it. He’s not the one killing people! They’re already dead! It’s environmentally friendly! Doesn’t Athena like the environment?

Athena does not in fact like the environment. This environment never stops trying to kill her and has not had the good graces to invent Dragon Age yet to make up for it. She tells him so. He stoops to threats, but does not draw his weapon yet. Athena ends the conversation.

I told you before that the burlap sack is the ultimate assassination tool. I was a little hyperbolic in that. The sack is not the ultimate assassination tool. It is half of the ultimate assassination tool. When we get the other half assembled, we are going to kill Iguana Bob in broad daylight, right in front of the police, with nobody having any idea of what happened. Continue reading