Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Blind Disappointment

Alright, so I had never done this before, and will likely never do it again. I've seen and heard a mixture of responses to loot crates, mystery boxes, and whatever other names might be given to a container of random junk. For me, a Halloween-themed variation sounded appealing, and the first to mention this to me was through an email from Crunchyroll.

Had I looked at the store page first, checked out the reviews, and delayed my decision to mull it over, I would have ignored this immediately. I didn't, the email skipped the store page entirely to take me to a processing step, and the only things to cross my mind were, "I wonder what sort of vinyl figurine I will be forced to give away," and, "I hope the imported candy will be an assortment of weird and unique flavors I can't find around here." For those of you who collect paper dolls, figurines, models, puppets, body pillows, or whatever the fuck else is available to the otaku community, you probably saw the word "vinyl" and know immediately what kind of toy it was. I didn't.
There are Funko Pop figurines of probably every fictional, nonfictional, and superstitional being to ever be conceived, and they are all as ugly as sin covered in shit and Pabst Blue Ribbon, which is also shit, but in its purest liquid form. Each one has the body proportions of Betty Boop and the cold, dead stare of ex-girlfriend who also happened to be an anthropomorphic shark... or maybe she was just a regular shark, but it was a rebound relationship for both of you, so I don't know why she hates you so much right now. I thought the break-up was mutual.

To add insult to the injury, only a few pieces of candy were of any value. Two of the... I think the promise was "Filled to the brim with snacks, exclusive items and other goodies for you, pay ONLY $50 for an $85 value!" Those are the words of Crunchyroll itself. The box I received was mostly empty, but I didn't genuinely believe it would "filled to the brim." I was, however, expecting to receive goodies that didn't amount to individually-wrapped sticks of regular gum, a bag with an entire THREE mints, and standardized options, like plain M&Ms and E.L. Fudge Cookies, except in much smaller amounts by companies that, I'm guessing, charge more for their versions of these snacks, because they come in a key-shaped package or resemble panda heads. In fact, the only treats I received that I was happy to have tried were a bag of puffs that I have no clue what they were suppose to taste like and a small glass bottle of matcha soda. That's the sort of stuff I wanted. I can buy chocolate and gum in any grocery store!

There was a promise for two CR exclusive items, but the only one I got was a metal pin of the site's orange logo. Perhaps the second item was the set of Crunchyroll Hime stickers that were already used on the damaged, near-empty box everything came in.
Gee, thanks a bunch!
The package also came with three Horror films from Asia: The Commitment, Witch Board (Bunshinsaba), and Red Eye. The highest score among them on IMDb is Witch Board with a whooping 5.8/10, and the reviews for each did little to raise my hopes.
Witch Board is also known as Ouija Board, since the story revolves around bullied teenagers trying to call upon a spirit to curse their classmates. Things go too far, there's a lot of fire, and the film's budget couldn't afford to hire an actual child to read the lines in the beach scene. I don't even know there was dialogue at all in that scene. Special effects took the form of setting stuff on fire and a long-haired girl slowly raising her head to reveal cloudy contact lenses. Oh, you get to see that a lot in this one. If you don't watch it, you won't be missing anything.
Red Eye takes place within a haunted train and centers around a newbie attendant who sees all sorts of spooky shit taking place around her. There are plenty of secondary characters receiving their fair share of the supernatural, but no one is really fleshed out, so watching somebody die probably won't leave much of an impact upon the viewer. The effects in this one are a heck of a lot better than in those found in the other two movies, but, using that logic, Roba is the best-looking member of the Problem Solverz, so interpret it however you want.
The final flick is easily the most boring. It tries to sell itself with three gory covers. This one is the least offensive, I think, and I remember seeing in in the movie. The other two, a girl with her mouth sewed together and the other holding her removed eyeballs in her hands, were nowhere to be seen, though I may have been yawning when they appeared.

The whole thing is about a group of cute girls making wishes at a haunted shrine and promising to do something in return for having their wishes granted. The wishes are silly and dumb, there are too many characters to care about, and scares are almost entire provided through bad dreams. The acting is comically atrocious, there are two scenes involving aggressive hair, and there's nothing cohesive about it. I don't even understand what the significance of the beginning was.

We sell movies of similar quality at the store, and those generally cost $5.99, unless they have a proven fan base or cult following. The figurine of L is $9.99, and good luck convincing me that tiny pin of the CR logo is worth more than five bucks, but we'll say $7.99 just to be generous. So, in all, I don't even believe the candy properly brought the value of this box up to the $50 I spent, let alone the $85 it promised itself to be worth. Was this the usual bad luck I experience on a daily basis, or are nearly all blind buys like this?

I found a link on Youtube to another sucker this year. Some of his candy is different, but otherwise:

Really, I just wanted to try an assortment of rare candies. Maybe level up to 100 with them and become a competitive member of the community. I was already in a terrible mood this month. Chops, in particular, knows what I mean, so receiving this was especially disheartening.

In an attempt to end this on a positive note, I did manage to complete four "scary" games for the month, blog about them, and finally discovered a copy of Monster Party for a reasonable price at Lukie Games. Even with S&H, it was cheaper than the least expensive copy currently on Amazon.

To celebrate, here's the first and only remix I have ever found for the game: Bertn1991.

I hope everyone else had a Happy Halloween. I'm expecting the rest of this holiday season to be a bummer. Sigh... so much for positive.

**Update 11/7/17**

I just now received my shipping confirmation for my already-delivered package.
...fucking idiots.
**Update 11/8/17**

I was asked to review my purchase, but since that product was removed from the store about a week before Halloween, I won't know if it'll be posted next year or if it was automatically deleted.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Spreadin' that Halloween Cheer!

Probably the last game for the Halloween season, since I still have to type up another SUPER (not super at all, actually) IMPORTANT (not this, either) post before the end of the year, though something I had on my Steam wishlist went up for sale recently, and it was extremely cheap too, so I might attempt to squeeze that one in during these last few days, or I may save it for 2018. Who knows (or really cares)?

I thought I was being clever by choosing something that wasn't spooky or specifically related to Halloween, but I later found out that this was recommended alongside all of those games anyhow during the October sales on Steam and Humble Bundle. Good job snuffing out even that tiny of bit pride, life. I always appreciate it. It's because I smiled that one time during the first week of the month, isn't it?

Expansions included!
Plague Inc. Evolved is the full-package version of a popular mobile game that has been praised for being somewhat educational about pathogens and the impact they can have on the human population. Your job is to infect and kill everyone before they can develop a cure.  It may be a simplified perspective on the matter, but it's a fun one that allows the player to name the plague.
This is probably far less amusing that I think it is.
After a few rounds of it, I began to wonder if painting the town red was all there was to Plague Inc.. It certainly felt that way.
I still enjoyed naming my lil' killers.
...and the answer I received was, kinda, but not quite. As one would assume, the selection of miniature murderers do offer subtle (and some not-so-subtle) strategy changes, though it does revolve primarily around staring at a map, clicking bubbles, and cussing out Greenland...
Fuck you, Greenland!
You ain't green! You ain't nuthin'!
Players start out with using bacteria, which is a straightforward spreader that refunds the DNA you use to allow for some flexibility. Following that is a virus, which mutates frequently, so it's difficult to keep a low profile long enough to infect everyone before they start working on the cure. Then, there's the limited mobility of fungus, a parasite that consumes all the DNA one would normally collect from spreading the infection, a slow-to-adapt prion that is difficult to cure, and a bunch of far more entertaining choices (including an official movie tie-in) that provide unique skill trees and new options for controlling your plague.
Lead the zombie apocalypse, turn a worm into a god, be encouraged to change everyone into vampires (but ignore that option and feast upon them instead), or hand over control to a bunch of damn, dirty apes. There's bonus points in it for ya if you can win without actually creating zombies.
These special plagues come with unique body scan images to properly visualize your progress and unlock new gene modifiers that better suit their particular mechanics.
Apes, vampires, and zombies come with a new enemy working with those trying to develop a cure, and, least importantly, the spreading color is different for each of them (orange, yellow, and purple). Wait, no, orange is for the worm and red is for zombies. I would have thought it might be black, or maybe black for vampires, but, no, zombies are the standard red... I guess zombies like red.
I did this. This is my fault.
We got a new fryer in the other day and I just really wanted to wipe out all of life as we know to test it out. (#freshcrispyregrets)
While playing, headline news will provide you with important bits of information, special events to unlock tricky achievements, and, for lack of a better way to phrase it, stupid shit.
Admittedly, I chuckled a few times.
Speed running is available, as well as a multiplayer mode, and there's even a scenario creator to play around with.
The are official scenarios are also worth checking out.
Now, for those of you reading this that are Amish or technophobic, the developers, Ndemic Creations, have provided a non-electronic version of Plague Inc. in the form of a colorful board game for just under fitty bucks. I don't know if that is a good price or not. I don't buy many board games nowadays, since I don't have any friends to play them with anymore.
I made myself sad again.
Ndemic also has the Neurax worm as a plushie, along with the nano virus and bio weapon.
It won't control your mind, but it might make its way into your heart. 
And the soundtrack is available for purchase on iTunes and Bandcamp, along with a small selection of t-shirts that can be found on Amazon. Then again, everyone sells t-shirts. Then again again, not everyone provides one that emphasizes your frustration quite like "Damn You Greenland!".
Did I mention I like naming my plagues?
Needless to say, so I typed it instead, the people of Ndemic Creations really know who to whore out their property, but the game is good, so they whored it out respectfully.

I find Plague Inc. to be addictive, and new scenarios are still being added by the developers (including a mad cow disease). It can feel a little samey, I will admit that, but when a typical playthrough doesn't take up more than fifteen minutes of your time (and can be saved for later anyhow), the game turns into a great time-killer for when you're sitting in front of your computer waiting on Crunchyroll to upload the next episode of Dragon Ball Super, even though it's already an hour late! I definitely recommend it, especially on PC or console, since I don't have a smartphone to try out the mobile version.

All that's left to do is to show off some more names:
Looks like somebody failed to Control his own Damage!
Yuk yuk yuk yuk yuk yuk!
Mortal Kombat, Night Trap, Roblox...
They are all murder simulators!
OH NO!!!
Ok, I'm done.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The road to Haven is paved with dead references.

So, you and four of your... friends... hop into a station wagon (which is similar in its appearance and function to a hearse) to survive a post-apocalyptic road trip from Washington, D.C. to a place dully named Safe Haven in Oregon, but why? Why Oregon? Is it because beavers are immune to zombie bites? Do walkers appreciate the diverse environment far too much to litter it with their decay? Is it because everyone loves Tillamook Cheese and fully believes in its I-totally-made-this-up-for-my-shitty-little-blog promise to one day rid of us all of these infected, cheese-snubbin' shufflers by fortifying their "baby loaf" buses with barred windows, steel-covered headlights, wedge plows, thick tires, and secondary batteries? ...because it's not California? I may never learn the reason, nor care for that matter, but I just finished my fifth trip through the radiated nation, and it is apparent that my friends and associates are all a bunch of food-gobbling, irresponsible halfwits.
An awful lot of dicking with these folks.
Also, only Sir Barnes the Noble managed to avoid being a burden.

I'm not sure how he did it, but I'm grateful for his cooperation and understanding.
Then again, it seems as though I might not be much better than them. What I thought was merely a fun way to include the pricks I loathed marginally less than the rest of humanity turned out to be my number of lives.
See, the option to continue doesn't present itself until I've entered four names, so it wasn't until I tried to earn the Loner achievement by killing off my party right from the start that I realized every random problem now fell on me for the entire trip. I may not have been "dicking around" with the goods, but there were plenty of bandits to rob me of my fuel, food would constantly go bad, and my vehicle continued to fall apart within the first week, as if it was made in America... as if it was... hey, wait a fucking min... so, regardless of who you decide to bring along, just know that they're there to suffer for you up until you're about to reach the end. At that point, heal everyone up, gun them down, and cross the finish line. You've successfully unlocked the Loner achievement. Yippie skippie!
I suppose I ought to mention that I'm typing about Organ Trail: Director's Cut, a zombie spoof of the Seventies classic The Oregon Trail, but you all already knew that. I'm sure of it. (I'm not actually sure of it, which is why I typed all of this just now.)

Originally, Organ Trail was a free Flash game that made its way onto Facebook, but this version aped every aspect of its inspiration. The Director's Cut managed a successful Kickstarter that earned well over its $3000 goal in order to craft a parody that could now stand on its own with new features, like making the developers money and spending that money. Granted, it was ported to other platforms; added new diseases, boss fights, and mini off-road text adventures; provided a wonderfully eerie soundtrack; and featured not only a second, female version of the title screen, along with four options for your team's leader, but also personalized tombstones for other players to stop and check out during their trip. All of these features were covered in the Kickstarter promises, but not much else was done to properly fix the small mistakes after that.

The Men Who Wear Many Hats put the game up for sale at a mere $5, then charged $6 for the soundtrack and added an expansion for $5. The pricing isn't bad. but a little polish is still to be expected. Typos and minor grammatical errors are one thing. Anyone can have a few of those in their work, however, I also found options that wouldn't function properly, such as the volume settings during a playthrough, and attempting to click the Leaderboards button only led me to a blank screen that I couldn't get out of without closing the game entirely. What irritates many of the game's negative reviewers is that the achievements with counters don't function, and I can understand why. If Mockery and the rest of Skeleton Crew Studios can handle this flawlessly for Grave Chase, AND do so without an additional $16000 (minus the fees and KS cut, of course), what's the excuse for The Men Who Wear Many Hats?
Why did there need to be fifteen Steam trading cards for this game? 
Lastly, the developers have provided no responses to any of this on the discussion boards. At best, the DLC provided some fixes alongside gameplay changes. With all that in mind, I think it's fair for some to believe this whole thing stinks of laziness and greed and...
...possibly beans. 
Admittedly, these are all just minor flaws. If you're not distracted by achievements and decorations for your Steam profile, then expect to have a great time.
The long-named developers clear did.
While reaching Safe Haven may be your focus, most of the mini games you'll encounter are reasonable, if not enjoyable. Too bad the biker gang event is boring as fuck.
Sure, it's fine the first time, but there's nothing to it outside of wasting five minutes of your time. The objective is to allow these fine gentlemen to aggressively ram into your car's ass by going up and down. That's all. It's neither challenging, nor rewarding, and none of them call you the next day... presumably from dying on the road, but that's not going to help my wagon's self-esteem, now is it?

In the Easy and Normal modes, surviving is simply a matter of stocking up on supplies through scavenging. You might be attacked by a bear or a pair of wolves, but there's plenty to find on the ground, and bullets are not too troublesome to come by, either. The Difficult, Suicide, and Endless modes bring with them fewer rewards, faster enemies, radiation, and several more bandits who will just rob you of everything within moments of leaving a town.
These fuckers are relentless.
It's important to take advantage of every hour the zombie activity is low, to make sensible trades when they're available, to be the bad guy when you go exploring (I never do, because I constantly want to be the hero... and I suffer from it more often than not), to upgrade early on, and, sometimes, you gotta cut your losses for the sake of everyone else.
Just kidding! I'll find a way to keep this train wreck going long after I'm dead.
Endless mode even provides modifers (like having every member of your team already bitten by zombies) to change the experience and increase your point value at the end. These scores are then added to the leaderboards... that I couldn't check, because the game turned into a blank screen. Honestly, that's not something I'm interested in, but I'm sure plenty of other people are, or were.
Completing the campaign mode unlocks a mini game with Clements, the unfortunate fellow who rescues your leader prior to the trip. It's just a simplified, physics-based version of Organ Trail with your station wagon flying over and plowing through zombies, but I found it to be charming. 
While the epitaphs on numerous tombstones can provide some humorous reads, there's also plenty of references to find throughout the journey.
Several pertain to other zombie games, like Resident Evil and Left 4 Dead, but zombie films, memes, and other games are scattered throughout, as well. Finding them all just adds to an already high replay value.

I'm not sure about the expansion. I'm assuming it addresses the issues I've found with the Director's Cut, but I think I've had my fill of it. I did appreciate the cooperation of everyone who joined me on trips across the US, and I apologize for the loss of our dear artist Chops.

I would, but Schierke isn't real, Chops! Your waifus are not real women!
Stop it!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Needs more candy corn.

Like all those "I wish everyday was Christmas!" specials,
except this spell only seems to affect places that were probably haunted to begin with.
"Forever" is less than an hour long.
Purchased during the Steam Summer Sale, alongside Castle of Illusion, Jet Set Radio, and Transistor, Halloween Forever won me over with it's pitch of piloting a pumpkin protagonist with a peculiar puking power:
It says that, yet the image shows Pumpkin Man is actually spitting out Indian candy corn, which makes sense, since Indian corn is essentially the black jelly bean equivalent of the seasonal treat, and no one would ever vomit actual candy corn. It's too delicious to waste!
Another shining example of effectively utilizing the Gamemaker Studio, Halloween Forever is a brief, but whimsical throwback to "unfair" platformers that required the player to fail repeatedly (usually through leaps of faith) in order to figure out where to move and jump.
Do you trust the spot with the heart?
Collapsible bridge over a spike pit that one can not see until they fall through it.
A classic platforming no-no.
Each area comes with two boss battles, and they are just as predictable as the stages.
...with the exception of this creepy piece of shit whose floaty homing movements are tripled whenever his face secretes a pair of explosive eyeballs.

Most of the major enemies can be safely defeated without much effort due to their dedicated patterns of attack. There shouldn't be any RNG excuses for speedrunners with this one. As a result, one can effectively complete all five stages in roughly half an hour. This isn't to type that the difficulty is gone. There are achievements available for completing this game in 1 HP Mode and for not killing any of the bats, which are littered throughout the stages and act as a projectile attack for the Big Bat boss battle.
Added replay value can also be found with the unlockable characters one must locate, along with the six runes necessary for the secret endings. Once you've discovered their locations, the three hidden characters will be replaced with extra lives. Those are definitely worth grabbing... just in case. Santa Pumpkin is already available, and he pukes presents, rather than Indian corn, while the other three offer up their own variations with butternut bombs, a double shot of bones, and a trio of scampering kitties. They each come with two endings, though there's not much of a difference between many of them.
Oh, of course! ...except all of that is Indian corn. Gross, nasty Indian corn
There's gotta be a different ending for Ms Witch, at least. I mean, she's clearly not going to be a severed noggin with a hankerin' for Indian corn... right? Well, I guess you'll just have to watch the Youtube video that shows all play for yourself to find out.

For achievement hunters, this one is worth grabbing, as well. I managed to collect 30 of the 31 available in only three hours. I'd probably try for Hardcore Gourd if I wasn't eager to move on to my next game for this month and post another one of these barbiturate blog posts that you insomniacs love so much.

HF comes with a cute, delightful soundtrack composed by Robert Mostyn that definitely captures the retro sound of the NES era. It is available on his Bandcamp page for three bucks, if you're interested, though I'm going to hold off on spending more of my limited money unless the urge to hear it again manages to creep into my mind a week or so after I've moved on to other games. It's a shame there wasn't a track dedicated to Ms Witch. I'd definitely pay to hear, "She was a two-eyed, no-horned, jumping purple pussy pitcher..." playing on my iPod shuffle.

Much like Grave Chase, Halloween Forever is a fun, affordable experience on Steam. In fact, it's a dollar cheaper! If you're a gamer who loves All Hallows' Eve and simple platformers, there's no reason not to pick this game up.
Ok, so it's only a third as SPOOKY as Grave Chase, but the developer clearly has fine taste in cheesy Horror movies.  

"All the candy corn that was ever made was made in 1911." ~ Lewis Black

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Shovel Nights

From July to September, I've been drawing something every day. Now, while everyone else is participating in Inktober, I'm sittin' here like a worthless lump of shit and playin' my usual slew of SPOOKY games and, hopefully, blogging about each of them.
Yeah, yeah... I get it. You want to be first this year.
Considering my recent track record, however, I'll be surprised if I can manage something competently legible for all my readers to enjoy... for me to enjoy... just me.... Only I read this.

So, I began my SPO... mildly unnerving list with an indie title from Newgrounds oldster Mockery. If you don't know who that is, then... well, that's not surprising at all. Many don't even know what Newgrounds is anymore ...but you might remember a delightful gem called Abobo's Big Adventure from roughly five years ago. It's a comedic mash-up of classic gaming references worth checking out, especially since it's free, because we all know you like free shit... you cheap, lousy bunch of fucks! He has also cobbled together other interesting titles, such as Cult Classic, Super Rad Awesome, and that wordy mess from 2001 that allowed Simon Belmont to whip the town priest and a bomb-dropping Jesus to death.
Aptly called "Castlevania Priest Battle"
For two decades, this man has provided the internet with all sorts of free (subjectively good) flash games. Wouldn't you agree it's time he was properly paid for at least one of them? ...I see. Okay, let me clarify. Regardless of what you say, because fuck you, you're going to pay the wallet-depleting six bucks for this digital treat; you're going to play it in the spirit of Halloween; and you're going to lov... not totally regret doing so... probably.
Grave Chase is a simple-to-learn strategy title that involves a brother and sister trying to avenge their murdered parents by digging up body parts buried throughout each graveyard and using science to bring them to life. You'll have to alternate between digging, fighting off a small army of monsters, and avoiding the Gravekeeper, as if he was that skeleton whale from Bubble Bobble (he kinda is). In addition to fast-paced gameplay and a frustrating-yet-fun level of challenge, GC's 2D pixel art and quirky charm are clearly inspired by one of my favorite childhood games for the SNES - Zombies Ate My Neighbors.
Body parts, rather than neighbors.
An exit portal, rather than an exit door.
Two dorky children for heroes, rather than two dorky... ok, that part is exactly the same.
There are as many levels as there are days in the month of October, so, like, more than 27, but fewer than 32, and you'll likely start dying on day three. By collecting all the parts within each stage, you'll be rewarded with a dancing something-or-other made from them. It's unpleasantly cute. 
The graveyards become larger and more mazelike with each new night, and, eventually, it all turns into a game of Pac-Man, as a wide variety of monsters are constantly emerging from the ground, the obstacles you break, the hedges, and around the borders of the stage to group up into a Benny Hill train of headaches if you don't take the time to fight them. Meanwhile, the Gravekeeper himself is immune to all attacks, is sensitive to nearby sounds, hates having dirt thrown at him, and will temporarily charge towards you when spotted (or if you smack his kitty). The objective may be to dig up body parts, but this must be balanced alongside defeating enemies and avoiding that chop-happy chubster.  
New monsters and obstacles appear at the start of most levels to help keep things fresh (or as fresh as dead can be, that is) and trying to keep track of their abilities will lead to many, many mistakes. There were several times where I'd only need to find one more part, and I would end up dying because I allowed a slime to follow me into a dead end, or I swung at a psycho before he was vulnerable.
He's not the only one who cares, either.
Much like any proper arcade-styled experience, high scores can be saved and shared with others, but not in Normal mode. Normal mode was more than enough for a filthy casual like me, and it's your best bet for hunting achievements, but if you're just looking for a challenge, you're welcome to try the Nightmare and Speed Modes.

The music isn't bad, though not memorable, and that can be typed about the characters, as well. I like the kids, and it's nice to know that The Gravekeeper has loved ones of his own, but that's about it. None of them stand out in any way. No dialogue or unique gestures. Who knows, maybe we'll get to see that in the sequel... if there's a sequel. I'd like a sequel.

If you're looking for something to get you into the spirit of Halloween, and you've already finished Costume Quest 1 and 2, then why not give Grave Chase a chance? It's six dollars. Come on, you can't play Cuphead forever, you know... unless you're trying to beat it, that is.