Let’s Blog Award from Frostilyte

Since it’s a slow period right now, still in the middle of airing anime and a few games I’m digging through, I think it’s time once again to go back to the archives and find some old post nominations I’ve gotten from fellow writers around WordPress. This one comes from friend of the site Frostilyte, who writes about video games in a lot of depth — if you’re not following his site already, be sure to follow him now. Do it!

The rules are as follows:

1. Answer the 10 questions sent by the nominator.
2. Write your 10 questions for the nominees.
3. Answer your own questions.
4. Nominate as many bloggers you want for this award and notify them that they got nominated.
5. Tag the post #Let’s Blog Award.

Shit, that is a lot of work, but I’ll get to it. First, Frostilyte’s questions:

1) Is there a game that you were originally opposed to playing because of the advertised difficulty, but really enjoyed when you gave it a shot?

The most famously difficult game I remember picking up and really liking was probably Strange Journey. I’ve written about it a bit here before, but even for an SMT game, it gives you a good whipping. The difficulty level suits the story it tells — you play as a member of an international military task force sent to infiltrate a massive tornado-esque demon-filled anomaly engulfing Antarctica. Strange Journey combines the dungeon-crawling gameplay style of Etrian Odyssey with the difficulty of a typical SMT game. And of an Etrian Odyssey game, come to think of it.

It is a fun game, though. It offers a lot of challenge in its increasingly complex mazes full of random encounters and boss fights, but there’s not so much challenge that I was put off of it.

2) Have you ever played a game because you thought it had a really good soundtrack?

Absolutely: NieR:Automata. Or however it’s punctuated. I’d already heard a lot of the soundtrack from the previous game NieR and loved it, and I knew the same people were making the music for Automata. The soundtrack was at least half of the reason I ended up buying the game. No regrets at all, either, because it was great (like it needs more praise piled onto it, but I’ll pile on anyway.)

Of course, I can’t pretend that 2B’s famously generous backside wasn’t part of the reason as well. Ultimately I stayed for the fun gameplay and excellent, horribly depressing story, but hooks like these are important to get people in the door, I guess.

I came for the music and the ass, and I stayed for the music and the depression.

3) What difficulty do you tend to play games on?

I always default to Normal mode, and if I go for a second round I generally shift up to Hard or whatever the equivalent is. I don’t tend to go for Lunatic/Nightmare/etc. modes; I can’t take that much punishment. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I’m not a true masochist — I just have some M tendencies.

4) What have you been watching lately via streaming service of your choice?

An assload of anime on VRV. It’s not a bad service, though I absolutely have issues with its playback features. It does have an excellent library, however. Almost all of the recent anime I’ve looked at I’ve streamed through VRV, and I’ll be writing about some VRV-hosted anime series in the near future as well. I recommend it if you’re into anime at all; getting both Crunchyroll and Hi-Dive’s catalogs is a good deal (and unlike those people on YouTube, this isn’t a paid endorsement, sadly.) It’s almost enough to cope with the lousy playback and the fucked subtitles on some of the Hi-Dive-hosted series. How has that not been fixed yet, anyway?

5) What is your favourite game played thus far this year?

I haven’t played too many games this year; most of them have been long epics a few of which I’ve finished and others I’m still working through. Out of those I’ve finished, I’ll say it’s Atelier Escha & Logy. All the Atelier Dusk DX games are good, but Escha & Logy is the best of the three, and it works as a standalone story very well despite being the middle game in the trilogy. It’s certainly not for everyone — after all, it’s a turn-based JRPG with time limits, bureaucratic elements, and a heavy emphasis on crafting high-grade items, and one of those alone would be enough to put off a lot of people. But it was just about made for me.

6) What is something you’ve accomplished this year that you’re proud of?

Aside from my work, which is far too boring to bring up here (and side note: if you think being a lawyer is very exciting from watching a TV drama or playing Ace Attorney, it’s really not, at least not what I do) my big accomplishment has to be just how much of the Atelier series I’ve made it through this year, playing through all of the Dusk trilogy, Atelier Ryza, and as of this writing almost to the end of Atelier Sophie and possibly through the followup Atelier Firis by the end of the year — so at least five and maybe six.

Atelier Escha & Logy; let’s see if it keeps my favorite game played this year spot.

Once I complete the Mysterious trilogy I might just write a deep reads post on the series in general, considering the fact that I’ll have played most of what’s available in English (though maybe I should wait until I finally get around to Atelier Totori? She’s still in the back of my mind.)

7) What is the pettiest reason you’ve chosen to not play a game?

I would say “a weirdly obsessive fanbase”, but I honestly can’t think of a game I’ve avoided for that reason. I might have ended up avoiding Undertale if I hadn’t played it shortly after it came out and shortly before it attracted that, let’s say interesting fan community. Then again, I tout the good Sonic games and encourage people to ignore the weirdo fanatics around it, so I should be more forgiving. (I have actually avoided reading the webcomic/multimedia series Homestuck for those kinds of reasons, despite getting it recommended a whole lot. So the hypocrite label still attaches to me in this case.)

So the pettiest reason might actually have been bad box art. Just shows how important those covers are, despite western publishers for the longest time not seeming to understand that basic concept that bands knew since the mid-60s.

8) When you replay a game with a heavy emphasis on choice do you tend to choose the same decisions or do you make new decisions?

I always make new decisions. I don’t generally bother replaying a game unless I either have different options to make that change the story path or unless there’s a lot of new game plus material in there. For one example, take Persona 5 Royal, which I’ve treated until now as basically a replay of the original (though there is a lot added in, but the core game is the same up to the point I’ve played, and thanks to my Persona fatigue I haven’t gotten back to it yet.) The supporting character you decide to cement a relationship with is a massively important choice to a lot of players. Instead of going for the somewhat controversial pick of Futaba like last time, I went onto the far more controversial “Hot for Teacher” route by dating Sadayo Kawakami.

I honestly don’t know why Atlus included Kawakami and the other mid-20s professional women around town as romantic options for your high school-aged main character, because it’s weird as hell. Why bring back this bizarre double standard set by Persona 3 Portable (though there in an admittedly perhaps even weirder form?) I won’t get into it here, because I can go on for a while about it. Then again, I did take that bait, so whatever; I guess I can’t complain about it too much.

I think there’s a weird disconnect going on in my case between the player and the protagonist. That’s to say, I’m the one who wants to date Kawakami, but I don’t think she’s a good choice for the protagonist for hopefully extremely obvious reasons. But then there are also people who got pissed that Futaba was a dateable option when she’s far closer in age to and far more appropriate for Joker here. So you clearly can’t please anyone at all.

To answer the question more generally and in a less off-track way, I just get bored if I’m replaying a game and doing the same things over again.

9) Have you ever replayed a game you used to like but found it substantially less fun because your gaming preferences changed?

I remember playing Rampage on the NES when I was very very young and liking it, then playing it a few years later and realizing it’s boring. Way too repetitive. Excitebike held up better.

In general, I’m also a lot less tolerant of mindless grinding than I used to be, probably because I just don’t have time for it anymore. If I’m leveling my party in an RPG while also fighting towards a clear goal, that’s fine, but if the developer didn’t bother to incorporate any plot or character progression into the process or just decided to throw a wall up in the form of a boss that I have to scale by gaining five levels fighting grunts in a shitty field somewhere, I’m probably going to drop the game unless I have some extra-compelling reason to keep going.

10) Toilet paper over, under, or pinecone?

If you’re referring to how I hang it, then over. Under is criminal. Not sure what pinecone involves, unless we’re talking about a different aspect of TP use in which case no comment.

And now for my questions. Sorry if any of these are repeated from older posts; my mind has been broken over the years to the point that it’s about half-functioning at this point. Also, I broke the rule and reduced the number of questions to seven because I couldn’t think of ten good questions (if the following even qualify as “good.”)

1) Have you played/watched a series that you first liked but felt went off the rails at some point?

As far as games go, Sonic is the answer some people might give, but I wouldn’t myself despite its many misses, just because it still has potential. Even if that potential lies in a Sonic Mania 2 that might never get made.

Or Sonic CD 2? Why not?

So I’ll go with the ultra-casual answer: Game of Thrones. I’ve already mentioned it a few times here, but I was one of the multitudes of people watching the HBO adaptation, and I also watched it collapse in on itself. I’d say that collapse started as far back as season 6, when most people were still enjoying the show despite its turn into some incredibly boneheaded writing decisions (just look up “season 6 Arya chase scene” — you will never convince me that everything about it and surrounding it is not completely stupid.) But of course, the last season was the real betrayal.

Maybe I’ll get into it in more detail sometime. Maybe when The Winds of Winter comes out? Which also might never get made, so don’t hold your breath for either. But at the very least, we can still have hope for the story and characters in the novels, since they’re completely separate from the show as far as I can tell now. And that spinoff series House of the Dragon might be good, especially since the story material has already been written by Mr. Martin himself.

2) What about the reverse — a series that you first disliked or had no feelings about but came to enjoy?

I honestly can’t think of any answers to this question myself. When I dislike something (or someone, in fact) I tend to keep disliking it/them. But that might say more about me.

3) How forgiving are you of glitches in a game?

Pretty forgiving, as long as they’re not game-breaking. The fact that I’ve ever spoken at all positively about Sonic Adventure should say a lot (though the Dreamcast original was also a lot less glitchy than future ports, to be fair to it.) If the glitches are just minor, I can deal with that and even find some amusement in it. Game-breaking glitches are another matter — take a game like the infamous Ride to Hell: Retribution, which had no redeeming qualities even if it could have been played without the earth opening up and swallowing your biker protagonist whole.

4) What about a poor localization?

I have a harder time with this, though it’s certainly more of an issue for players who are mainly into Japanese games like me. The general quality of game localization has risen a lot in the last two decades, along with players’ expectations, but there are still actual fucking machine-translated visual novels being sold on Steam. Which is a double crime, firstly against the buyer who was expecting some level of quality control in their game, and secondly against every translator out there hunting for work.

So a message to publishers: don’t be cheap. Hire proper translators and editors. If you don’t, honestly and completely without any sense of irony, fuck you. I’ve heard the excuse that hiring these staff would increase costs — fine, then to reduce costs a restaurant might also justify using the lowest-grade meat possible and buying nearly rotten produce at extreme discounts from markets about to throw it out. To those making the above argument: would you happily eat at that restaurant?

5) How do you feel about cursing/general vulgarity in art and media?

This question just suddenly came to me, and my answer probably won’t surprise you too much: I don’t mind it as long as it’s warranted. Above, for example, I didn’t think I could properly express my pure hatred for penny-pinching asshole publishers other than with a “fuck you.” I’ve heard people claim that “cursing is the sign of someone who lacks imagination/can’t use language properly” and so on, which is priggish bullshit. Sometimes foul language is absolutely called for, as I think it is here.

That said, cursing and vulgar language can be both overused and inappropriately used. When applied at the wrong time or in the wrong situation, it’s like hitting a sour note, standing out in a bad way. Overuse also lessens its effect. I may well overuse certain vulgar words here on the site, but I do try to limit them to maintain their effect. Hearing someone just throw out fucks and shits constantly for no reason can be offputting as well.

And of course, I’m not advocating for these words and others like them to be used on Sesame Street. Kids should learn cursing properly: by reading said words written on bathroom stalls and then whispering them behind teachers’ backs like we did.

6) What three countries would you most like to visit, assuming you could do so without worries about time/cost?

My three choices are Spain (again, because I liked it a lot the one time I was there and want to see it a second time), Italy (art, music, history, etc. etc.), and Japan for reasons that are so obvious if you read this site that I don’t need to explain them.

7) What’s your favorite drink(s)?

Not necessarily the alcoholic kind. In my drinking days I used to like stout in the winter and lager in the summer, but now I stick to seltzer and coffee. And occasionally tea, but coffee is the true gift from God. I just hope I don’t end up like Balzac.

Though I no longer drink, I’d still hang out in the bar in VA-11 Hall-A. Just don’t put any karmotrine in there, Jill. Still waiting patiently for that sequel too…

And now, who are my marks?

Red Metal

Aether

Iniksbane

The Gamer with Glasses

Moyatori

pix1001

and finally Irina if she can fit it into her amazing posting schedule.

And taking the idea from Frostilyte, here are those questions set out in an easy-to-copy format:

1) Have you played/watched a series that you first liked but felt went off the rails at some point?

2) What about the reverse — a series that you first disliked or had no feelings about but came to enjoy?

3) How forgiving are you of glitches in a game?

4) What about a poor localization?

5) How do you feel about cursing/general vulgarity in art and media?

6) What three countries would you most like to visit, assuming you could do so without worries about time/cost?

7) What’s your favorite drink(s)?

A review of LiEat (PC)

It’s been a long time since I wrote a proper game review. Plenty of commentaries and analyses and complaining about everything I hate about life and the world and all that, but no reviews for several months now. Since I have a tall pile of games to complete that I bought during Steam sales (a digital pile, I guess, not a physical one, but I still imagine them stacked up on my desk like it’s the early 2000s again) now seems like a good time to get back to my roots.

The first game I completed in my massive haul was LiEat, a short RPG series about an unlikely pair: a traveling conman who constantly changes his name and appearance and his companion, a young dragon girl named Efina (or just Efi) who has the ability to see the physical forms of lies and eat them. The version of LiEat I got on Steam is actually a trilogy of three games titled LiEat I, II, and III — each game takes place in different settings and with some differences in cast, but the main characters are always Efina and the conman, who first shows up in LiEat I with the name Leo.

Efina eats a lie.

Efina’s ability is a complete mystery, both to her and to her guardian. Even her birth is a mystery: she just happened to hatch from a giant egg that Leo happened upon while he was walking along the road one day. Since Efina didn’t have anyone to take care of her, she attached herself to Leo and started calling him “Papa” much to his annoyance. But Leo takes her in anyway, both looking after her and making use of her lie-eating ability to solve mysteries and hustle people out of their money.

You defeat a lie by beating its physical form down to 0 HP. If only it were that easy in real life.

Leo and Efi make a good team, despite how weirdly the pair seem to match. Efi is naturally curious about the world — despite looking like a pretty normal human kid and having the ability to reason and talk, she’s only a few months old at the start of LiEat and is excited to learn all she can, both about the world around her and about her unique power. Leo, meanwhile, is a jaded, world-weary guy in his early 20s who only likes “beer, money, and women” and tells Efi to shut up when she’s getting on his nerves. Not a natural father figure, but Efi seems to cheerfully accept Leo’s attitude.

It’s no use lying to Efi, but Leo does it anyway.

Throughout LiEat, Leo (later changing his name to Hal and Sid, none of them his real name) and Efi move from setting to setting, meeting new characters and getting mixed up in some kind of supernatural trouble that they’re forced to solve. Inevitably the police also get involved, headed up by a captain and vice-captain who know Leo and are a little wary of him for some reason. This might be because they know he’s a conman, but there’s a lot more to it than that. As the story progresses through I and II, we get hints of Leo’s past and learn his true name (Theobald Leonhart aka Theo — isn’t Leonhart Squall’s last name from FF8? Maybe a reference there?) It’s only in LiEat III that the game lets on about Theo’s broken childhood and about the burden he carries, one that only Efi can help him resolve.

There’s some deep backstory here

LiEat is a very small series of games. Each one takes just about an hour to complete. In fact, while each game has its own set of endings and doesn’t carry levels, equipment, or items over, I see these less as separate games and more as three chapters of the same game. They all have a pretty similar look and feel — all created with WolfRPG, a popular RPG creation template, but with a lot of custom sprites, character portraits, background music, and event CGs. The developer Miwashiba clearly took the time to make LiEat much more than the standard boring templaty1 RPG. The combat is very simple and no challenge at all, just standard turn-based stuff, but I think part of the appeal of LiEat is in that style that Miwashiba adds.

Not a woman you want to get involved with

Despite its short length, LiEat isn’t exactly lightweight either. The story goes to a few unexpectedly dark places. Nothing too gory or horrific, though the third part does have a little bit of the psychological horror element. No, the darkness here is more emotional. The normal ending to the last game, the first one I got, was pretty heartbreaking. I immediately had to figure out how to get the good ending, which the LiEat finale thankfully has — it’s absolutely not a given when it comes to these WolfRPG/RPGMaker games that there will be a good ending at all. And I’ve got to say that I was satisfied. The good ending wasn’t pulled out of the game’s ass just for the sake of ending on a pleasant note; it’s entirely believable and earned.

I was also satisfied with LiEat as a whole. It only cost something like $1.20 when I bought it on sale, but even at its sticker price of three dollars I’d say it’s worth going for, especially if you already know you’re into this RPGMaker-style RPG/adventure genre. It might give you some warm feelings, especially in the sort of parent-child thing that develops between Theo and Efi. And it’s me saying this, and I’m a bitter, emotionally closed-off asshole, so it should say a lot that LiEat worked for me on that level.

A scene from the third part of LiEat. I feel personally attacked.

So that’s a recommendation from me. Especially if you come across it during a sale, because even as of this writing, it costs less than a cup of coffee. But only if that coffee is from Starbucks, which you can’t visit at the moment because they’re probably all closed now because of the coronavirus. At least the one near me is. So instead of buying that overpriced, overburnt mud water2, why not buy a game like LiEat instead to pass a few hours during the international quarantine?

Since I’m not going anywhere either, I’ll continue to just dig through that backlog over the next weeks/months. Until next time, if you come across a giant egg while you’re walking along the road and discover a dragon hatching from it, I guess do the right thing and adopt it on the spot. It worked for Theo in the end, and in the best-case scenario you’ll end up in a Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid kind of situation, and who wouldn’t want that? Shit, maybe I really am just a weirdo. 𒀭

 

1 I know this isn’t a word, but it should be. Haven’t you seen a lot of games that just look like they were thrown together with a game creation tool using basic default assets? I don’t know of any better term to use to describe that sort of game. Not that they’re all bad, but there’s something to be said for setting yourself apart with a distinctive style, which is something LiEat does admirably well.

2 Their regular coffee tastes like ass. I still stand by that assessment. If you really need some gas in the tank, though, the cold brew is worth paying for. There, that’s your bonus coffee review.

2019 First Annual EiBfY Game Awards (and a brief site forecast for 2020)

Yes, in yet another first, I’m starting my own very prestigious annual game awards ceremony!  Hell, I have as much right to do that as Geoff Keighley and his stupid Game Awards.  Do I really have any less legitimacy than they do?  (Please don’t answer that question.)

Anyway, here are the awards.  These aren’t based on what came out in 2019 but rather what I played or otherwise experienced in 2019, and also in December of 2018 because that’s really when I revived the site again, so why not.  Congratulations to the winners, who can hopefully take some comfort (or discomfort as the case may be) in their achievements.

Best free game that should be converted into a mobile game if it hasn’t been already

Winner: Cappuchino Spoontforce VI: Girl of the Boiling Fury

In this bizarrely titled game, you have to attend to one Sajiko, a miniature woman taking a bath in a cappuccino by adding coffee to keep the temperature up.  You can add milk and sugar cubes to the coffee to gain points, but they lower its temperature, and if you hit the bathing girl in the face with any of them she’ll get pissed off.  The object of the game is to get as many points as possible before she gets so upset that she leaves the bath (again, she is wearing a towel, so this isn’t 18+ or anything.)

This is a strange concept for a game, but it’s a fun diversion for a few minutes.  Fellow blogger the Otaku Judge suggested down in the comments that this would make for a good mobile game, in fact, and I quite agree.  Never mind that most games will probably devolve into the player giving up on keeping the coffee hot and seeing how many times he can smack Sajiko in the face with sugar cubes/douse her with milk. At least that was my experience with it.  Now that I think of it, maybe this game actually is 18+.  All depends on how you approach it, I guess.

Best game of the year that I already played 15 years ago

Winner: Disgaea 1 Complete

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is an eternal classic, but it was really asking for a remaster, and 15 years after its release it got one.  I was very happy for the chance to play through Disgaea 1 again, complete with all the additions made in its mobile versions on the DS and PSP.  However, it’s hard to deny that aside from the extras and cosmetic upgrades, Disgaea 1 Complete is at its core the same game it was in 2003, which is why it gets this award.  I still highly recommend it to anyone who’s never played the original.  And hell, you can probably find it pretty cheap now, so even if you played the original you may as well get this one as well.  It probably is worth it just to have those extras, especially Etna Mode.

Most effective fourth-wall-breaking

Winner: OneShot

Yeah I was late to the party on this one, I know.  But out of the two fourth-wall-breaking games I played this year, OneShot made the more effective use of the mechanic by making me feel connected to a fictional character in a way few other works ever have.  I think this partly has to do with the game not keeping its central premise a secret.  You know almost from the beginning that Niko, the cat kid protagonist, knows you exist in a different world and that you have some degree of control over his actions and the world around him.  It also really helps that the writer managed to create a child character in Niko who is actually likable and not overly precocious and irritating on one hand or dumb on the other.  I still highly recommend this game to pretty much everyone.

The other fourth-wall-breaking game I played this year was good as well, so it gets an honorable mention, but the title is left out for those who don’t want to be spoiled on its central premise.  Even if everyone already knows its central premise, and they do.  You probably know what game I’m talking about anyway.  Never mind.  On to the next award:

Best game soundtrack that still has some really bad songs on it

Winner: Passion & Pride: Sonic the Hedgehog: Anthems with Attitude from the Sonic Adventure Era

This might be the most “back-handed compliment” award ever made.  Or maybe it’s just a plain insult.  I have pretty fond memories of playing Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 way back in the day on my Dreamcast.  I know they’re not perfect games, but I still like them.

However, the music is a different story.  Some of it’s actually pretty damn good, especially the smooth jazz/pop Rouge and Amy themes that I couldn’t appreciate when I was younger because they were too “girly”.  And a part of me really likes Shadow’s theme, the part that’s still an angsty 13 year-old boy.  (In fact, I think SA2’s angsty as hell song “Supporting Me” is a great boss theme, though it’s not on this album.)  But some of this music is rough to listen to.  I hate Tails’ theme, and Knuckles’ bad rap and Sonic’s bad hair metal throwback music annoy me too.  And the lyrics, even in the songs I like, are generally pretty fucking terrible.  If I didn’t understand English, I think I’d like this album a lot better than I do.

I still like it more than I don’t, though, so congrats to all the composers and musicians, even on the lousy songs.

Best game about telephones

Winner: Strange Telephone

Okay, so this game didn’t have any competition in its category.  However, it still deserves an award for its unique and interesting gameplay and for the creepy, oppressive atmosphere it created.  Not that it’s really a horror game at all — it’s more of a psychological exploration puzzle game.  Strange Telephone barely gives you any hints and throws you into the deep end to let you figure out how to get Jill and her magical flying telephone back to her world, and that’s just the sort of thing I like.  Congratulations to the developer yuuta for making something different that worked.

Best physics

Winner: Senran Kagura Estival Versus

There was only one game I played in 2019 that truly qualified for this prize, and so it won: Senran Kagura Estival Versus is a masterpiece of physics. Lots of bounce in this game, even in the above screen if I could have posted it animated. I suppose I could have made a gif, but that’s too much effort. Just play the game yourself and you can make Yumi and her friends and rivals bounce as much as you want. Unless you’re playing as Mirai, of course. But Mirai brings that “short angry pettanko” appeal that every series needs; see also Cordelia from the Atelier Arland games.

And speaking of angry pettankos, here’s the most important award of all:

Best girl

Winner: Asano Hayase (Our World Is Ended.)

Asano is the most bullied character in a game I played last year or possibly any year.  Not that she’s alone in getting that kind of treatment — most every character in the apocalypse summer sex comedy visual novel Our World Is Ended is made fun of, both by the other characters and by the game itself.  But Asano really gets it bad.  She’s a terrible cook, a tone-deaf musician who thinks everyone loves her singing, and a lousy drunk who responds to the slightest provocation with violence.  She has an almost flat chest, a fact that she can’t help but that she gets made fun of for anyway.  And she has some extremely socially unacceptable interests, to put it politely.  She’s a complete wreck.  She could also be the mascot of this site, because I’m a complete wreck too.  So she gets her deserved recognition today.

(None of that’s counting her many good qualities, which you can discover if you play Our World Is Ended.  I’ll also give honors to Asano’s voice actress Eri Kitamura, a professional singer who had to force herself to sing incredibly badly and also record a bunch of lines spoken in drunk.  I don’t know much of anything about voice acting, but I thought Kitamura did an excellent job, so congrats to her as well.)

***

And that does it for the First Annual Everything is Bad for You Awards.  Will there be a Second Annual next year?  That depends on whether I get a minute away from work to play any games this year.  I certainly hope I do.

And now that we’re done with the big retrospective, we can look forward to 2020.  I never like to make solid plans, but I do have a few projects I’m working on, including two sets of posts about two of my favorite game series, one of which I wrote about above (points if you can guess which one, though I suppose it won’t come as a big surprise when I start it.)  I’m finding I like doing these kinds of deep-dive commentaries, even if they take a god damn eternity to write.  But I do have a few of these epic-length analysis articles mostly written up already in very rough forms, and a few more outlines for others that I think would be interesting.  If you liked my treatment of Kaiji back in November I hope you’ll like these posts as well, because they’re panning out to be just as obsessive as that one was.

Aside from continuing that deep reads series of posts along with maybe a few basic game retrospectives, I don’t have any particular plans, which is my usual approach.  If I get an idea, I’ll try to make a post out of it and hope it’s entertaining, or at least not irredeemably stupid.  Until next time, I hope your return to work from the holidays isn’t too painful (or if you also worked through the holidays, well, I hope you can take a vacation soon.)

Games for broke people, caffeinated edition

Coffee is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity.  Indeed, it’s one of the few things that makes life worth enduring.  If a doctor told me that I’d have to give up coffee or else die an early death, I would immediately find a probate attorney and draft my will, because there is no force in the universe that will keep me from my daily cups.

Sadly, coffee is not free, especially not if you’re buying that overpriced brew from Starbucks.  The following coffee-themed games, however, are free.  I downloaded these from itch.io, and they all involve coffee as a central theme, though perhaps not always in ways you’d expect.

Need More Coffee

 

You know how you’ll go out in the morning with no money in your pocket and an empty glass coffee cup in your hand, picking quarters up off the street so you can get enough to fill that cup with coffee at your local café?  And then you’ll run to the next café down the street while evading rabid dogs and weaving through dangerous, unprotected construction sites?

No?  You don’t do that?  Well neither do I, but we’re not the protagonist of Need More Coffee.  This Game Boy-ish title features a nameless man who must run from café to café while drinking coffee to keep his energy up, allowing him to run faster, jump higher, and clear all the obstacles in his way.  Drinking coffee fills up your “battery”, which is constantly draining.  And that’s a bad thing, because when your battery is empty all you can do is shuffle around and hop a little bit.  Unfortunately, this guy is pretty fragile, and even walking on a crack in the sidewalk will cause him to fall down completely incapacitated, which isn’t much fun. The idea behind using coffee as a sort of power-up/fuel in a platformer is interesting, but this game just makes me feel like I’m controlling a Game Boy version of my own out-of-shape self, which I really don’t enjoy at all.  The creator did a pretty good job capturing the look and feel of a Game Boy game, though, so good on him for that.

Cappuchino Spoontforce Deluxe VI: Girl of the Boiling Fury

That’s quite a title. Not only did these guys misspell cappuccino, but they made a title longer to say than it takes to actually play the game. And that’s almost not an exaggeration. According to the info on the developer’s itch.io page, Cappuchino Spoontforce stars Sajiko, a girl taking a bath in a cappuccino. Your object is to get points by adding milk and sugar to the drink with your constantly moving pitcher and tongs while maintaining its temperature by adding coffee. If the cappuccino gets cold, Sajiko gets angry, stands up, and shakes her fists at you as the game ends (don’t worry, she’s wearing a towel – not sure why she’d be taking a bath while wearing a towel, but who the hell takes a bath in coffee anyway?) Complicating matters is the fact that Sajiko keeps moving around, and it is possible to douse her in milk or coffee (ouch) or hit her in the head with a sugar cube, which seriously pisses her off and makes her more likely to quit her coffee bath. The game is pretty damn mean-spirited, though, because it gives you 500 points every time you successfully brain her with a sugar cube. Shit. The protagonists in these games aren’t getting any breaks, are they?

Okay, I have to be honest – I like this game, as bizarre as it is. It’s pretty difficult to keep the game going, trying to drop the ingredients in and around Sajiko to keep the coffee hot while trying not to hit her and piss her off. It’s a novelty, at least, and a pretty fun one for five or ten minutes. Definitely weird, though. But you probably already knew I was weird myself, so does it really come as a surprise that I’d enjoy something like this?

Coffee Physics

 

Coffee Physics is a game about throwing cups of coffee at people.  Or rather at sentient men’s bathroom sign figures who are constantly chasing you for some reason.  Tossing your coffee at these things will knock them over, but the chase continues until your stock is exhausted (that’s a lot of full coffee cups for one person to be carrying, though – maybe they’re all stored in a holster or a bandolier that we’re not seeing.)  You can also run around town knocking over objects, because this is one of those games where everything, no matter how solid you’d think it is, has the density of styrofoam.

I don’t like these kinds of games, but maybe you do.  In any case, it’s free, so if you really feel like throwing coffee at vaguely person-shaped objects, playing this game is probably the easiest and most legal way to do it.

Study solutions part 2: instant coffee

If you’re a dedicated reader who’s wondering why I’ve been away for five weeks, it’s because my life has been fucked with school and will continue to be fucked with work until I finally go to the grave after a lifetime working 70 hours a week for people I will hate.  It’s definitely better than starving under a bridge, but sometimes I wish I hadn’t been born into a family that demands so much of itself.

That said, I’ve also been playing Fate/Extra a bit.  It’s fun but it also has problems.  I can’t recommend it to players who aren’t already fans of the Fate series.  Maybe I’ll post a more in-depth review at some point.

Fuck you, Shinji.

Fuck you, Shinji.

Since I’m back at school, I’ve been looking for more caffeine-enhancement options.  And I’ve found that, although it definitely isn’t the best coffee you can find, instant is one of the cheapest and most convenient forms of caffeine intake available.  It’s especially good for students who don’t have any time or money to spare.  So if you’re not willing to illegally buy Adderall or Modafinil without a prescription, consider these study aids:

Untitled

1) Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Colombia Medium

I know I said “cheap” a few sentences ago, but Starbucks instant coffee, as you could perhaps guess, is not cheap.  I got a package of eight instant coffee packs from Kroger for seven dollars, which is a great deal if you usually buy coffee at an actual Starbucks but which isn’t so great if you usually make it at home.

VIA is pretty decent.  It doesn’t have so much of that weird aftertaste that instant coffee is known for, and I would even say it’s better than Starbucks’ regular “Pike Place” brew (which I don’t like, so this isn’t a high compliment.)  And at Starbucks’ quote of 130-140 mg of caffeine per pack, one of these will get your ass moving – depending on your tolerance, anyway.

That said, I won’t be buying VIA again because it’s too expensive.

2) Cafe Bustelo Espresso Instant Coffee

This is what I’ll be buying instead.  Cafe Bustelo is stocked at the supermarket (at my local Kroger, anyway) in boxes of six for one dollar each.  I can’t find the caffeine info anywhere, but it carries a kick, and it’s at least as strong as the Starbucks blend and probably stronger.

It’s also pretty good at far as instant coffee goes.  Cafe Bustelo is a well-respected brand that specializes in Cuban-style coffee.  While these packs of instant coffee aren’t going to taste the same as a freshly brewed cup at a Miami or Havana cafe, they are definitely better than the shitty Folgers/Nescafe powder you’ll find occupying the kitchen cabinets in most parts of the world.  At less than twenty cents a pack, I’m basically losing money not buying these things.  If you’re looking for a quick, cheap, and not-horrible-tasting coffee solution, I’d highly recommend Cafe Bustelo Instant.  They’re not even paying for this endorsement, I promise.  I wish they were, but they aren’t.

3) Trader Joe’s Instant Coffee Packet

I go to Trader Joe’s at least twice a month.  They have a great selection of stuff that you can’t get at most other places, like decent hummus and pita bread and good frozen food packages.  Unlike Whole Foods, a lot of their products are also affordable.  So when I saw this weird instant coffee packet on the shelves, I had to try it.

I say weird because the packet itself is a lot bigger than you’d expect.  The reason for this is that Trader Joe has put powdered milk and sugar into the packet along with the instant coffee powder.  This is something I wasn’t thrilled about, because I like to drink coffee black or occasionally with some cream – but never with sugar.  For that reason, Trader Joe’s instant coffee pack was my least favorite among the three I tried.  However, they are cheap (two dollars for a box of ten) and if you can’t stand coffee without milk and sugar, this might be the instant coffee pack for you.

Good luck with your studies/work.  As for me, I’m going to continue to be not dead and to post here as often as I can.  That’s the plan, at least.  Law school might just kill me at some point.