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Hamumu Revumu: Prototype 1 & 209:03 AM -- Tue February 2, 2016

Prototype 1 & 2

TL;DR: The first one is insanity. The second one is insanely awesome. Infamous-style "superhero smashing up a city" free-roaming 3rd person action games, with tons of leveling up, and a funky little bit of very original stealth.

Kombat Kuality: Both games use roughly the same control scheme, which is sensible and quite playable. It's fun to run around chopping guys up, and your power level is significantly over 9000 - you can literally sweep through an entire crowd of enemies and leave them all chopped in half, or pick up a tank and throw it. The difference is this: in the first game, everything happens at such a ludicrous pace, and so much junk is being thrown at you from every direction, that you can die in the blink of an eye, or completely clear a battle without a scratch. You can be juggled by tank blasts until you die with no chance to escape, or you can dive bomb everybody and level the whole block. You never know until you try, and it is pure chaos and luck. It's pretty fun, but also very frustrating.

In the second game, all of that is cleaned up into gaming bliss. You can still mow down a crowd of guys, and you can still take massive damage, but it's understandable and expectable. The chaos is controlled, the feel is polished, and it is fun.

Story Stupid? The storyline continues on fluidly from the first game to the second, and while it's a little hand-waving just to get through the gameplay, it's also quite interesting and brings up some real philosophical issues. I actually spent a while thinking about the big issue that comes to play in the first game, which I daresay qualifies as a notable twist. It's definitely a video game, not a Russian novel, but I did have Real Thoughts while playing! There's also an element of sucking up peoples' memories as you play, to get little snippets of information building the bigger picture of what this world is like. Some of that is silly, and most of it is extraneous (I didn't need to get the memories of 50 different people who all think "wow, what we're doing here is pretty evil!"), but it does build a world beyond just you smashing up mindless drones.

Wrapid Wrap-Up: Prototype 1 is a questionable game. It's so utterly chaotic and just crazy that I can't even compare it to another game. It's kind of like a Ludum Dare game gone way too far. I couldn't put it down until the end mainly because I just couldn't stop wondering how this ever got released, and had to see the next level it would take things to. It's very buggy, in small ways like weird physics issues, and it's obvious that that's because they just let everything fly and couldn't possibly control everything. It's manic mayhem and I've never quite seen anything like it. You can jump up and down on top of a building until it collapses.

Prototype 2 is amazing. It's one of the best games I've ever played. It's all the ideas of Prototype 1, but smoothed out and polished down into a shining jewel. I think there are a lot of people who don't like this game for how it reins in the insanity of the first game, but I love it. The frustration is gone, but the slicing and dicing and car-throwing remains. It is a beautiful work of art. There is literally one criticism I came up with while playing: there are basically no boss monsters to fight. It's glaring enough that it seems like they ran out of money or something. The final boss could easily have transformed into a massive towering beast, but (spoiler I guess) it remains a human-sized thing for the entire fight. And prior to that, there's only one fight I would really classify as a boss fight (against a big beast), but it turns out to be super simple to defeat, and turns out to be just a regular big enemy you see later on multiple times. Not often, but it really loses the "big boss" punch. Luckily, the regular gameplay is so awesome, you're okay without the bosses.

I bought the RADNet add-on for Prototype 2 (which adds barely anything, but I'll take any more Prototype 2 I can get!) and will be starting over on hard difficulty one of these days. I can't wait to get back to it!
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Hamumu Revumu: Dead Island10:57 AM -- Wed January 20, 2016

Dead Island

TL;DR: Fun action surviving the zombie hordes and leveling up!

Gameplay Gist: Well, you run around a zombie-infested tropical resort, bashing in skulls (there are guns eventually, but even then, you mostly beat things with a stick), finding and crafting better weapons, and leveling up and increasing various skills. In a way, it's just a dungeon crawler with a coat of tropical zombie paint over it, but the nature of zombies and the modern technology changes things in various ways. It's definitely all about completing those quests.

Kombat Kuality: Thinking back, I'm not sure why I enjoyed this as much as I did. The fighting is actually pretty awkward. There's also an advanced control scheme available where you can directly aim your swings, but I tried that for about 30 seconds and turned it off. It's bad. Anyway, it's all quite simplistic without that - you just take your swings, aim for the head, and step back before you get bit. That's how it goes for the entire game, with just a few alternatives like dashing in and tackling a zombie, or triggering your Rage Mode to go nuts temporarily and punch their heads off. There are also special situations, like tossing a propane tank into a crowd and shooting it, or the various special types of zombies you have to handle in a different way. Somehow it just never got old even though I can't think of anything super interesting about the combat. You're always listening for that roar in the distance that tells you there's trouble.

Story Stupid? It's alright. The whole thing's a bit of a comic book as usual, but you're one of the very few people who are immune to the zombie virus, and you're trying to be a hero by helping people who are trapped in various places in the resort. Of course there are human villains and a government/military conspiracy, and a super-zombie (everybody loves those!). Pretty much everything you expect from a zombie story.

Wrapid Wrap-Up: I had been hesitant to get into this game from off-hand comments I had heard about it, but when I gave it a shot, I was very pleasantly surprised and totally hooked. Like I said above, I'm not entirely sure what the appeal is, but somehow it just works for me. Trying to collect items from all over, making forays into different areas, trying to combine quests so you don't have to make too many such forays, combining junk into super weapons, and clocking dead people in the head. It's just fun. There is enough variety in the situations and packs of zombies you encounter that you're constantly having to change up your strategy and pulling different tricks, and being surprised pretty regularly. Like walking around a corner face-first into an suicidal exploding zombie. The danger level is always just enough to keep you on edge and looking out for the energy drinks that are strangely scattered everywhere (and more strangely have a magical healing effect). I liked it all so much that I played all the way to the end, and then I started up Dead Island: Riptide almost immediately.

I did make the mistake of trying the new punching-focused character in Riptide, and I have to say I gave him a shot but I need to set him aside and try somebody else, or I think I might end up hating the game. Getting in close enough to punch a zombie is not fun. But other than that, my note on Riptide so far (a couple hours in) is that it's just about the same game, but improved in every way. Lots of really nice tweaks to spice it up.
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Growtopia 201607:40 AM -- Sat January 9, 2016

Where is Growtopia going in 2016?

You may have noticed the massive new update in Growtopia yesterday (or you haven't noticed it's massive, since many of the items are undiscovered...). In total, there are 29 new items added. Previously the goal for an update was around 10 items, but we did an update every 2 weeks. The new plan moving forward in 2016 is to do a single update each month, released as close to the 1st of the month as possible (this month was a problem because Apple shuts down for the holidays and we were transitioning from the every-other-week updates), so that each month has a 'theme' of its own, one major update which contains things you may not find right away, or may not even be obtainable right away (such as Carnival, Comet, or Locke items), so that as the month goes on, you piece it all together. There's also of course some items and changes to whatever holiday happens to occur during the month (Anniversary Week, in this case. Happy 3rd birthday, Growtopia!).

So what is the big idea here? We got more items this month than we would get in a typical month - on average there'd be 2 updates in a month, which would be an expected amount of 20 new items. But it was also easier for me to do. By doing a single big theme (Steampunk this month) instead of two smaller ones, it's much easier to make a variety of items. Previously I'd have to stop myself - "Oh, that's enough Adventure items for a pack, I have to move on to the next theme". And oh mama were there so many themes!! But now I can go crazy and put in all the things I'm thinking of. Or maybe not - there are actually a lot more potential items for the steam system, and I think I'll be adding them every so often, making it more and more functional. Maybe one day you'll be able to program your own games inside Growtopia, on a steam computer. Anyway, this new system of 1 big update per month allows each update to be fully fleshed out instead of just dipping your toe into a theme.

The other big benefit is that each update can be very meaningful. You're not going to see a month of "assorted random items". This month we introduce the powerful new steam technology, next month it's... well, you'll see. But it's an entirely new gameplay element again. I know what I'm adding in July and that's fun and different, and I have one other big idea definitely to come this year. I can't promise I have (or will come up with) 12 big game-changers like steam machines, but I do have a lot of big ideas, and if there isn't something game-changing in a month, at least there will be a big meaty update!

And the last benefit is just for me: even though it's more stuff for you, it's still less work for me! And it's more fun. I get to work on the crazy ideas I enjoy tinkering with instead of spending so much time cranking out basic items for biweekly updates that there's no time left to experiment. And my real secret hope in my heart is that this more focused work will give the time in between updates to actually set my brain free from Growtopia, and spend a minute thinking about anything else. Who knows, maybe enter a Ludum Dare again one day even? It would sure be nice.

So you can look forward to a single large update each month from Growtopia going forward. At least until we figure out why that's a terrible idea and switch to something else entirely!

Bonus: here's a screenshot from an upcoming update, you figure it out:
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Hamumu Revumu: Oceanhorn02:37 PM -- Tue November 10, 2015

Oceanhorn

TL;DR: A modern Zelda clone! Cute.

Gameplay Gist: Top-down action-adventure. If you know Zeldas, you know this - you travel from island to island, and on each one you encounter a dungeon, during which you gain a new item that lets you do something new, then you have to beat a boss using this item. You can then move on to the next dungeon, or go back to earlier places to use your new item to reach various bonus items you couldn't get before. I didn't realize until I wrote that how Metroidvania-ey Zelda games are.

But this has all the other Zelda stuff too - when your life is full your sword shoots, there are little bloopy enemies that look like Zelda enemies, your life is made of heart icons, there's a little tune for secrets (although it seems to play at all the wrong times in this game), you smash pots and chop grass for gems, dungeons have regular keys and a master/boss key, bombs and arrows are a major element, etc. All sorts of little touches ripped straight out of Zelda. Intentionally though. This is an homage more than a rip-off.

Kombat Kuality: The combat is not great. Like older Zelda games, it's basic and not super compelling. It's also super easy. Mainly the enemies are just there because running through empty dungeons to get to each 'puzzle' would seem much more dull.

Story Stupid? You bet. It's right out of Zelda, just the most basic Macguffins to pull you along to collect all the pieces of the Triforce (not called that in this game, but yeah, that) and reach the final boss. It's a little bit compelling, in that there's definitely a sad feeling to the whole thing, like this is a run-down world that is sort of falling to pieces, and everyone you meet is the last of their tribe or something similar. But no, not much of a plot.

Wrapid Wrap-Up: All in all, I was honestly quite hooked. In hindsight now, I say the things I wrote above - not super interesting, nothing compelling about the gameplay, the puzzles are as mindless as in any Zelda (the definition of a puzzle is basically "you have to recognize that you need to use a certain item", as opposed to anything you truly have to figure out). But like any Zelda, those little rewards and cute animations keep you hooked. You just have to know what the next new item will be, and you get a thrill out of completing each dungeon, even though it feels equivalent to successfully moving the beads around on one of these:

You know? Like you solved a puzzle made to challenge an infant. But it's still solving something, and triggers that endorphin hit. So I'm hard-pressed to "rate" this game. I don't have anything great to say about it, but it was a very polished work of art, and it did its job as a game - hooked me in and kept me playing non-stop to the end. So why don't I love it? I don't know. I did when I was playing it, but that was a month ago. I guess you should play it. It's a nice game. Just don't expect anything groundbreaking or life-changing. Just some simple fun.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: App06:14 AM -- Sat October 31, 2015

Well, this is it! 31 days, 31 movies. There were several other movies I watched, which I didn't review for various reasons (there was one I didn't even feel comfortable mentioning on this website! So I'm not going to now, sorry), including about 10 extras I watched before October started, just to warm up. Netflix is really chock-full of horror movies! Not necessarily good ones, but there sure are a lot of them. Without further ado, the Halloween finale!

App

My Review: This is what the title sounds like: the story of an evil smartphone app that collects all the information about you that it can, and uses it to ruin your life. It sends your private videos to everyone around, it magically infects other nearby phones or computers every time the phone it’s on is set near one, and spreads like that, causing people to kill themselves or hate other people, or whatever. In one case, it also uses some kind of totally-not-made-up electronic power system to turn on a boombox really loud so the boombox bounces itself until it falls off the scaffolding it’s on, and into a swimming pool to electrocute someone. I was going to mock this as silly, but decided to google it first, and it turns out you actually can die from that much electricity in a swimming pool! It’s not likely or common, but it can happen. That’s actually scary when you think about the electric lights in pools and how often they have their wiring checked, if ever. Anyway, the bouncing radio is still silly.

But wait, that’s not all there is to it! The reason I decided I just had to watch this movie was that I checked it out on IMDB first and discovered that it has an actual app that goes with it! You install the app, turn on the movie, and the app listens to the movie through your microphone, popping up little video clips and things at appropriate times during the movie. That was fun! It was really underutilized - probably 95% of the movie, it just sat there showing its idle image and made me wonder if it was listening at all (I hope it didn’t miss some cues? My sound system is pretty weak, and my iPad is in a thick case...). And a lot of what it did was pointless, but there was some fun to be had. One of my favorites was absolutely pointless, but did add to the feel of the movie: the main character heard her phone buzz, and rolled over in bed to pick it up and see what it was doing. At the same time, on my iPad, the camera of her phone was displayed, so it rolled around and showed her face as she picked it up and held it overhead. It was just a cool connection, and made me wish that the entire movie I could look over and see the phone’s POV on my device (most of the time, the inside of a pocket).

Other things it did included showing a newspaper article about a death that had just occurred, continuing the outdoor shot as someone drove into a parking garage, to show you the building she was going into, and showing you what was happening in a room she just left. Then there was one fairly pivotal use: there are two characters in the movie that aren’t overtly shown as evil for a long time, but before it’s revealed in the actual movie, the app shows texts going between them to reveal it. That’s a pretty interesting element, although the content of the texts was silly and terrible dialogue, not at all something a real human would’ve said.

So the app stuff was a fun idea and I’m glad I checked it out, but I don’t think it’ll catch on or ever be a good idea. Mainly all it did was totally distract me from the movie. Even though it was almost never showing something, I was constantly glancing at it because when it did show something, there was no noise or advance warning (it was intended for use in theaters, so of course it didn't use sound), and it would be over in 5 seconds, so I really had to pay attention to catch it. It was pretty good symbolism for the so-into-texting-that-you-ignore-reality message of the movie, since it actually forced me to be a distracted person, constantly glancing at my device instead of paying attention to the movie (which was subtitled, so this was extra problematic).

Oh, and back to the actual movie: it was okay. As usual, the technology didn’t make any sense, though it’s suggested at the end of the movie (not really a spoiler) that the app is ‘haunted’, which means they can get away with whatever they want. Still, the plot itself didn’t make sense, as the app seems to have been created for two different purposes which don’t match up, and... it’s just weird. It’s almost like two movies crashed into each other and spilled out onto my iPad.

P.S. I watched Kung Fury immediately before watching this (I give Kung Fury 5/5 Viking Chainguns, by the way! Catch it now!), and you know the scene where Hitler shoots people through the telephone? That pretty much happens at one point in this movie too! I liked the connection.

My Rating: 2/5 AI Spines.

My Movie Idea: I’d love to come up with something for the “app with a movie” concept, but I just don’t think it’s a good idea to begin with. How about instead, something you can’t actually play in a normal theater or video player: a choose-your-own-adventure movie? But something well-written. Like it’s this big crime drama with supernatural elements (or not, depending on how it goes...) and based on the decisions you make, it could end up with lots of different twist endings: they all did it, one of them is an undercover cop, something about time travel, etc. etc. Every 10 minutes or so of movie, it’d ask you to make one of four choices. Not about what happens, but rather there are 4 main characters, and you’re asked which one you want to follow with the camera. You’d have about 10 seconds to decide, and then majority rules.

So what happens is that whichever character you follow has the most interesting life of the 4 for that segment, since otherwise it’d be a boring movie, so that dictates the plot. You follow Bob and he ends up in a high speed car chase, but if you didn’t follow him, his drive to wherever was just uneventful, and so that means there isn’t a shadowy government agency following him. You follow Janet instead, and her meeting with the guys who kidnapped her son turns into a tense Mexican standoff. If you hadn’t, she’d just appear on a phone call to Bob during his crazy drive saying “yep, I got the kid, everything went smooth!”

I suspect this movie would require an awful lot of film! Not to mention custom technology to play it. Seems fun to me, but then I like video games.
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