New job, same site, & other news

Surprising even myself, after a few contented years working in an operations administrative support role, I’ve stepped down from my management position to accept a new role in an Indy firm’s Social Security disability department. The transition happened midweek; I left my old job on Wednesday and started my new job on Thursday. But it was about a month in the making. I’m excited and anxious and interested to see how this goes. That’s big enough news in my personal life that I felt it warranted a post. It’s been a year with a lot of big personal events, including the death of our dog, the adoption of two dogs, the purchase of a house, a new volunteer pursuit, and now this. That all said, this site shouldn’t be impacted in any way. I’m already only posting once a week, which has been quite comfortable. While it means that I certainly won’t be increasing the frequency of posts on a regular basis any time soon, I also don’t have any reason to decrease or discontinue posting. I’ve enjoyed writing on this blog, and I fully intend to continue carving out time for it.

I have a few other, much smaller, updates that are more relevant to the focus of this blog, though. I’ve finished Cat Quest. I’ve actually finished it twice now, since it provides a New Game+ mode. That’s taken me a little over 10 hours of game time. I’m a little over level 100. I’ve cleared most dungeons (maybe all, but I wasn’t very diligent in confirming that, and I know I never found all the loot locations in some of the cleared dungeons). I’ve got some high-level themed equipment (a helm of Faith, the armor of Courage, and the weapon of Willpower, resulting in my hero looking like a near-naked enlightened monk). It’s been fun, but I don’t have any particular interest in trying out the other game modes or starting over again. My opinion hasn’t changed on the game, and I’d still say it’s worth the purchase. And compared to my game time spent with Desert Child (just a few hours) or Untitled Goose Game (about five), it’s still been the longest gaming experience among the indies I’ve played lately.

There are altogether too many games available on and coming to the Switch, and I haven’t narrowed down exactly what I’ll play next. That said, Vampyr will be released for the console a couple days before Halloween, so while it may not be the next game I play, it’s certainly one that I’d like to revisit, and the seasonal timing is just perfect.

It’s not much of an announcement, but I’ve realized in retrospect that I sort of gave up on The Clone Wars rewatch. It’s sort of a silly thing to say, because I can of course continue watching or start over whenever I want, but I’ve made no effort to keep up with the official posts for several weeks now. Watching almost any Star Wars film or show will be much easier when it’s consolidated on Disney+ anyway (though it doesn’t appear that the two Endor-based fantasy movies or the Ewoks or Droids shows are dropping there anytime soon). I have been watching other things, though. Sam and I finally finished Adventure Time; that final episode was absolutely fantastic. I’ve started the television version of What We Do In The Shadows, which is fun and tonally fits with the movie, though I’m not far enough along yet to say if it really feels like it’s doing its own thing–that said, I like the introduction of the Energy Vampire concept.

I haven’t watched any particularly memorable movie lately, and my pile of books remains as thick as ever; I keep adding more to read, quicker than I can get through them! Most of my attention is currently on Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King, about Thurgood Marshall’s defense of the “Groveland Boys” in Lake County, Florida.

While I could leave it at a week’s recap post for the week, I’ll still plan on having a more “normal” post tomorrow, though I’m not sure what about just yet. And if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. Either way, I’m looking forward to what is sure to be a very exciting, very different week for me.

Review: Cat Quest

Of the three quirky indie games I’ve played recently on the Nintendo Switch, Cat Quest (developed by Singapore-based Gentlebros) is by far the longest experience. That doesn’t mean it’s the best, of course, but it does mean that this is a game that I can return to over time. It helps that, despite the RPG-norm grinding, it feels airy, light, and casual, rather than consuming, endless, and bloated. I remain engaged, maybe a little addicted, to this oddball title. If I had to guess, I think I’m about two-thirds of the way through the main story, having completed a huge bundle of side quests and explored many dungeons; if the suggested level of one of the isolated island dungeons is any indication, leveling to the needs of the main quest is more of a floor than a ceiling. (As usual, I’m so behind the times that I’m getting to this 2017 game just around the time that its sequel has released.)

In Cat Quest, you are a cat. On a quest. In the most generic of RPG stories, your sister is captured by an evil villain, and you set out to save her and put a stop to his plans. Turns out that you have a special heritage and destiny, too, because this game lives on RPG tropes. You’re a Dragonblood, the most recent in a storied line of dragonslayers (yes, there are a lot of homages to Skyrim, among plenty of other pop culture mainstays). While the game isn’t quite a satire of these tired conventions, it does have a lot of fun lampshading them and laughing at itself.

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As I referenced, the game is obsessed with pop culture references. Your mileage may vary, but I didn’t get a lot of amusement out of them. Most of the references amounted to a sort of Family Guy-style allusion or simple parody, where the joke is simply getting the reference. Among other things, The Elder ScrollsStar Wars, Santa Claus, Arthurian myth, the Tomb Raider games, Game of Thrones, Lovecraftian horror, The Lion King, Robin Hood and medieval myth and legend, and even Santa Claus get references. The best of these references, to me, are ones that go with a lame cat pun.

There are a lot of lame cat puns. Some are kind of fun. Many are painfully bad. When you play a game called Cat Quest, you’d better hope that there will be cat puns.

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The game itself is fairly simple to play. Most of the game is spent on the overworld map. Exceptions are fairly small dungeons, which load mini-levels to “explore” down railroaded paths. It plays a little like a pared-down Zelda-alike at first, with you mostly pressing one button to swipe at enemies and another button to roll out of range of their telegraphed attacks (always indicated by a darkening red hit radius). You even have a pseudo-annoying pixie-ish “guardian spirit” sidekick to speak for your silent protagonist. Over time, you collect more and more spells and special abilities, which are toggled by additional buttons. I’ve only collected enough spells to fill out my mapped buttons, but while I haven’t had to be selective with spell choices yet, I have found that simply managing four spells plus the melee attack and dodge makes every tiny battle fairly dynamic and fun. Spells use mana, and mana is recharged by melee attacks. Enemies tend to be weak to a particular spell type or physical attack. Combining attacks while rolling out of enemy barrages is sometimes easy and sometimes hectic, especially when you’re suddenly surrounded by enemies. Virtually every battle is fast-paced yet manageable, with strong visual communication of what is happening at all times. Death doesn’t cost you much, so if you do find a challenge in which you are overwhelmed (and fail to turn tail and run quickly enough), there’s very little setback.

A lot of the quests orient around going from one place to another to kill monsters or collect items. Item collection is mostly triggered by reaching a certain point on the map, which is fairly dumbed-down but also makes fetch quests a lot less painful than usual. Some of the quests have interesting little stories, though they’re all heavily drawing from fantasy tropes and common RPG story beats. There are no conversation trees or branching quest paths here (outside of literal divergences in a physical path to a location). It’s all basically an excuse to go around fighting things while exploring more and more of the overworld. Improving in abilities and equipment is almost an afterthought–you run over XP and coins scattered across the land or dropped by enemies, and you collect equipment upgrades from chests. There’s a handful of different armor and weapon types, and whether using a blacksmith or completing a dungeon, equipment drops are randomized. If you get more equipment of a given type that you’ve already collected, this manifests as increased stats for that particular item. So while you’re progressing and improving, it never feels like work to do so; everything feeds back into the simple fun of the combat.

The oddball humor, fight mechanics, focused and honed simplicity, and even bright and colorful visuals remind me in many ways of Japanese indie game Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, and not in a bad way at all. Both games don’t try to be everything; both offer subversions and reinterpretations of fantasy tropes. I think that Recettear pushed the envelope a little further (the idea of running an item shop, stepping into the role of an NPC for any other game, offered a great deal of novelty), but the cute cat characters, open world, and silly puns of Cat Quest, and the lack of shrieking, “cutesy” anime characters, puts this feline RPG at a higher rank in my book.

Cat Quest is pretty, cute, addictive, and fun. It’s not a deep RPG. It’s not one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. But it’s easy to pick up, inviting, and enjoyable–whether I’m playing for a long session or a short one. Playing on a mobile device (or in the Switch handheld mode, which I’ve enjoyed), it would be a perfect option for a quick pick-up-and-play title to fill a commute or while away a Sunday afternoon.

Review: Untitled Goose Game

Untitled Goose Game (developed by indie studio House House) is a small game wherein you are a goose. As said goose, you do what geese are known to do: act like a total dick to everyone around you. You hurtle yourself through a small town, honking and flapping and smashing and stealing on your way. You make people miserable and sow chaos. You pull pranks and cause mischievous, and sometimes unintentional, petty harms. Your grand goal at the end of the game is to tear down a model village tower just so you can drag a shiny bell back across town to drop in your hoard of shiny bells in your swampy home.

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Untitled Goose Game is an absolute delight. The instrumental music is playful and dynamic. The townspeople’s reactions are amusing to observe. It’s fun to test what exactly you can do in each part of town, to see how different combinations of interactions lead to divergent results. The game is consistent and logical, and while you can’t always predict what will happen, you can count on a consistent result when using the game’s mechanics in a similar situation. It’s part puzzle game (where the puzzles are logical and intuitive and delightful to solve), part stealth game (where getting caught is part of the chaotic fun, and where the worst penalty is simply being chased a bit away by an annoyed villager), part sandbox (where destruction and recombination reign), and part peaceful afternoon jaunt.

It took me a single Saturday to play through the entire game, completing every item on every to-do list, including the bonus challenges, the timed runs, and the claiming and donning of the final prize. I enjoyed virtually every moment of it. There was only one point where I had to look something up, and reading the first sentence of a summary in the search results was enough for me to go, “Oh, DUH! Of COURSE,” and promptly take off to complete the task. Even the timed runs were far more fun than frustrating; whereas most of the game was remixing actions to accomplish tasks, now it was remixing task completions such that the results would blend together to enable a successful sub-six-minute completion of a zone. I had to reset a lot to get the time completions of each zone right (resetting is just a reality of even attempting the in-game speed-run challenges), but resetting just restored order to the clutter and placed me at the starting area of a contained zone. Testing ways to move through a level and complete tasks was some of the most fun and challenging experimentation that I had in this wild waterfowl’s lab.

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Even aside from the tasks, it is so joyful and often truly peaceful to simply explore the town. You can just observe the townsfolk moving about. The colors and shapes and textures are soothing. The townsfolk all have evocative personalities, even with the simple bodies and blank faces that encourage the dickish goose personality. Really, very little encouragement is needed to be a massive ass of a goose. It’s fun to pick things up, to toss them about or run off with them, to honk and flap and run and swim. As an example: after a brief tutorial that gets you out of your home with your small set of moves and across a small pond into the village, you are confronted with a picnic spread on a bench; I immediately grabbed up the sandwich and tossed it into the water, just because I could, and there was an immediate jolt of internal positive feedback–yes, this is good, do more of this, the animal part of my brain said. This is all the more remarkable because I hate playing as bad or evil characters in most games; doing evil things, causing harm to even virtual innocents, makes me uncomfortable. But I delighted in my small, and ultimately harmless, torments of the villagers.

I haven’t had such a relaxing and fun weekend evening in a long while. I highly recommend this game!

Review: Desert Child

Desert Child (developed by Oscar Brittain) is a slick little game. It has screens of beautiful environments, popping with color and packed with tiny little scene-setting details. The pixelated character art is simultaneously impersonal and diverse, suggesting a cosmopolitan, integrated, yet ultimately anonymous urban life of the future. Storytelling is subtle but memorable, from background elements like the partially destroyed moon or grafitti on a mecha-turned-lifeguard post to pithy newspaper articles you can purchase from a paper boy (how delightfully, absurdly anachronistic that you walk around this future cityscape with a high-tech mobile device but get your news from good old print papers). The soundtrack is incredible, often appropriately atmospheric but frequently edgy or funky or weird (purchasing the many, many tracks from the record store became an early priority). And the plot and themes of the game pull heavily from sci-fi and anime classics, with a special reverence for Cowboy Bebop.

It is short, though. While I took a hiatus from the game midway through, and only played it a little at a time, it only took a handful of hours to get from start to grand prix victory credits. The story is simple: you’re a hopeless hoverbike racer with ambitions to win the big championship race and maybe find a way off a slowly dying Earth. Most of the game is spent in a cycle of slow wealth accumulation and expenditures. Most of that time, you’re barely breaking even, as you have to pay for food, repairs, upgrades, and races. The odd jobs pay better than the races, but to get ready for the championship, you need to practice your racing, and racing is simply more fun (the adrenaline rush that the protagonist gets from the experience is captured well, and racing is absolutely the most exciting and intense element of a game that is otherwise deliberately slow-paced). At first, time seems a factor, but there’s really no rush to get to the grand prix event (I actually lost the first time, without penalty, and proceeded to lose a second time before finally finding a bike mod buildout and race style that better served me; I had much more wins than losses in the standard races and so never had to worry about bigger strategic thinking before then). As a result of the mellow pace, I settled into a slower but steadier routine, focusing more on odd jobs like kangaroo herding, pizza delivery, and weapons testing runs, accumulating cash that largely went to the bank. With the interest accrual of savings, it made more sense to just keep enough on me to keep myself fed and my bike in working order through the next race. This broke the cycle of poverty in the end and made it quite affordable for me to pursue the grand prix as many times as I needed (why exactly does the grand prix allow multiple runs without some sort of game over?).

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I don’t know if perhaps there are different endings or things to explore after your first completion of the game. My impression is that that’s not really the case. There didn’t even seem to be that many mods to customize my bike. I earned most of my mods by participating in the bike theft mini-game whenever I encountered an unattended ride (this mini-game was a clever way to have a game mechanic reinforce the theme of grinding poverty met with ambition; there are other ways to get bike parts, but the temptation to steal, and the cost of honest purchases of parts, is so great that eventually my restraint melted away).

I haven’t said much about how it plays yet. I actually enjoyed most of the game modes. Races were great fun and felt rewarding to attempt (with some level of risk, since you’ll accumulate hunger and bike damage, and even when you win, the pay-out’s not great). The other odd-job mini-games were fine but uneven; pizza delivery offered a huge payout and was soothingly simplistic, while on the other end of the spectrum, I never could find success with the bounty hunter jobs and quickly gave up on them. My favorite non-race mode was weapons testing, using a borrowed rail gun to take out a variety of enemy drones. But I also enjoyed walking around the different screens of the big city, getting “burgers” (the ubiquitous term for all food, from ramen to pizza) at little shops and stalls, and admiring the scenery set to funky music.

Desert Child is a little game, but it’s a cool game. If you come to it for an atmospheric, bite-sized good time, you’ll enjoy yourself. Don’t expect something incredibly deep or lengthy, though! This game’s more about style than layers of substance, and it works.

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Completing objectives

Over the past week, I’ve finally finished On Her Own Ground (the biography of Madam C.J. Walker by A’Lelia Perry Bundles). I really struggled with making progress through that, but the woman and the history surrounding her are equally fascinating.

That said, this post’s primary purpose is to note that I should have some additional video game reviews up over the next couple of days, having dug into a few games from the Switch’s eShop over this weekend. Those games are Desert ChildUntitled Goose Game (which I started and proceeded to complete on this Saturday alone), and Cat Quest. The first two of those games are actually quite short, but my time spent across these titles still reflects a weekend in which I devoted more leisure time to video games than I have in a while.

Outside of that, I also started my first volunteer shift at the Indy Reads Books store. It’s a bookstore in support of the nonprofit organization Indy Reads, which is focused on providing literacy programs in Indianapolis. It’s a cool cause, and the bookstore itself is full of quirky, eclectic titles (in addition to all the new and classic books you’d expect to see in any bookstore). I enjoyed my short time there today, and my biggest challenge so far is that it’s far too easy to buy more books while I’m there. I’d been so good about sticking to library loans! At least I can say that it’s going to a good cause.

I don’t have anything else to add, so I’ll just repeat that I should have reviews for those three games on the site soon.

“Hello Neighbor” Sucks

There are literally dozens of Switch games that I’m eager to play–physical and digital, across a variety of genres, some exclusive to the console, some universally available, and even some older titles getting remakes and re-releases on Nintendo’s joyous little console. Yet I’ve been trying to take it slow, attempting to get through the bulk of a game before moving on to the next; with single-player titles, I’m making more of an effort to complete the main campaign. With my limited time spent on video games, this significantly slows down my interactions with newer titles.

All that said, Hello Neighbor was not on the top of my list, but my wife has been interested in this game for a while. There are some games she likes to watch me play, even if she doesn’t want to play herself, and this was toward the top of her list. So, that’s what I picked up.

I’ve regretted that more or less since the first day. I’ve tried telling myself that I hadn’t given it a fair enough shake. Then I tried telling myself that I just wasn’t much of a puzzle enthusiast, that I was the wrong audience. Eventually I was telling myself that glitches happen in games, even game-breaking glitches. Now, I think I’m done. I’ve only played for maybe a dozen or so hours, most of that time spent struggling to counteract poor controls, puzzles spread out over a wide space with little intuitive connection, and bugs that failed to trigger events. Despite all that bullshit, I’m still squarely in the middle of Act 3 (with a Finale level to follow, apparently). So it’s a short, poorly constructed game.

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Hello Neighbor is marketed as a colorful survival horror/stealth puzzler game with bold visuals, in which you compete against your antagonistic Neighbor, to probe a dark secret stored in his basement. Selling points of the game are the sandbox interactions with the house and the neighbor’s adaptive AI.

I’ll allow that the game, at the least, does offer an AI (however rudimentary it actually seems to be in execution) that attempts to counter your actions, and it appears (from the walk-throughs I’ve scoured in frustration) that there are actually multiple ways to get through each level of the game (even if they’re almost all equally convoluted). I found, however, that the sandbox elements feel dampened severely when your goal is to end up in the same few spaces, and when environmental manipulation is so limited.

Controls are twitchy and imprecise. Your targeting is indicated by a minuscule dot. Even when you lock onto something, clicking the controls does not consistently deliver the desired response. There are only a few controls that do anything, and yet it’s not always clear which control is appropriate for a given outcome. Mostly, you can turn things on or off, pick things up, and throw things. A lot of the game requires some combination of stacking objects and jumping. This is as imprecise as everything else, made worse by the fact that “dropping” objects is more like lightly tossing them. Dropping an object in front of you can be affected by slight changes in viewing angle or even apparently random chance, making it difficult to consistently replicate an outcome. It’s just as variable as to which items you might be able to pick up; some are scene dressing, but it’s not clear why, say, an end table is off limits but a large dining chair can be tucked into your inventory like anything else. “Using” special items to perform a particular action is also limited; the magnet, for instance, only attracts metal objects that the game wants you to be able to grab via this method. Not to mention that, when you’re running from a child abductor, it’s frustrating that hurling a metal object at best slows him down, and there’s no option to strike said abductor with your handy wrench or crowbar (that last complaint, I recognize, is more a personal objection to the limiting confines of this particular style of YouTube-era tween-scream “horror” game–although at the least, these games usually try to be horrific, or at least jump-scare worthy, and this game is mostly just annoying).

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Hurtling through the air. A+ physics.

While I might have seemed a little more forgiving of the AI than the limited sandbox, I still wasn’t fond of it. Sometimes it worked well. Sometimes (like with Alien: Isolation), the neighbor seemed to become attached to me on a tether, racing back and forth between the same couple of rooms, maybe never bothering to check out my obvious hiding place (e.g., tucked into a partially cracked dresser or behind a pile of boxes) but nonetheless unreasonably convinced that I must be inhabiting a room with no sign of my presence. Sometimes the neighbor would set a truly hindering trap or knock away a prop I’d relied on, and sometimes he’d stare dumbly at the same window I’d jumped through half a dozen times or simply fail to reset the same trap I’d triggered just as many times before. Sometimes the neighbor would pursue me unshakably, even in the dim of night; sometimes I could run circles around him or run up on him from behind without detection; sometimes he’d be able to “catch” me by touching my feet while I was on a higher platform; sometimes I’d be able to dash past him less than an arm’s length away.

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The sometimes-this, sometimes-that nature of things made it difficult to get a feel for the game’s rules, such as they were. It made it difficult to figure out how exactly to approach problems. It made it difficult to understand if the game was being intentionally challenging, or if something was poorly thought through, or if something had broken again. Whenever you’re caught, you’re returned to your starting point at your house (or, in the middle act, in the neighbor’s basement), but you (normally) keep any of the four items you had in your inventory, while any environmental changes are completely up in the air. Will boxes be where you left them? Windows still broken or not? You won’t know until you get there!

I would have given up a lot sooner if not for the scant guides available online. I’d hop between them, looking for the least-tedious option to progress through a level. With virtually no clearly articulated goals (other than to ultimately get in or out of a locked basement), and with random objects hidden away throughout the house that will trigger inscrutable outcomes in other sections of the house, typically only discovered in turn with further searching, it’s amazing to me that anyone ever put in enough time to figure it all out. Literally one section of the game required breaking into an attic from the roof and going down a ladder into another room, then discovering and using a key to open a doll house, then selecting the small profiles of doors in the dollhouse to unlock rooms in the actual house. All without any explanation or any obvious input/output from your actions. Adding to the “fun,” the Neighbor suddenly decided to start scanning the rooftop for my presence, then raced to apprehend me and set a camera trap, making my future completion of any objectives up there incredibly tedious.

When things are so disconnected as is, it’s infuriating when the game just breaks. Walk-throughs taught me how I should have been able to acquire a wheel, by activating a series of pipe junctions, but when I did so, nothing happened. I had to load an older save and repeat the actions to get the wheel valve to burst from its mooring appropriately. In the third act, there’s a tram looping around on a roller coaster circuit (the third act is rather fantastical), and this tram can be boarded, and this tram will also consistently kill you when going down a slope–I guess the game thinks you’re free-falling. The tram death will reset you in the tram again at a different time of day, which says to me that the designers knew about the error but, rather than fixing it, just made it so that resetting didn’t disrupt your progress too badly. Except that I’ve noticed that if you let yourself die on the tram enough circuits in a row, it will reset you back in your house, only now without the ability to move forward(??), only to the sides, requiring a reset to fix. The tram is also the easiest way to get on the roof of a particular section to get to a wrench to open another area, but you’d have to be able to stop the tram just right. I’ve seen YouTube videos in which people freely control the tram. But I’ve tried every combination of buttons I could think of (including of course the usual use button), but nothing happens with the tram control lever. The tram continues on its own preset route, inevitably killing me in “free-fall.” There are places where I could jump on the tram, but the game chooses to treat me as immobile, standing in midair atop it as the tram continues to glide forward, leaving me to eventually fall. It’s this bloody tram, in fact, that finally killed my will to soldier on.

I don’t feel like I’m missing much. The story’s not interesting. First act: your boy protagonist sees evidence of the Neighbor committing some horrible act, so he goes to investigate, infiltrating the basement only to discover that it’s a dungeon apparently set for him. Second act: after capture, the boy must escape the dungeon and the grounds of the house, which has been expanded and is now ringed by a colossal fence. Third act: the boy, now a young man, returns to his abandoned home, observing the dilapidated Neighbor’s house; he begins to hallucinate, and after apparently being woken from a nap, he sees the most elaborate version of the house yet. He decides to infiltrate it again–presumably working through a dreamscape to cope with the traumas of his past. The dabbling in the surreal would be more interesting if it didn’t feel so narratively predictable, or if it didn’t result in ever-more-opaque game mechanics.

To add to the surrealism, whenever you are caught by the Neighbor, there is a chance of playing through one of several dark dream sequences that present an abstract glimpse of the Neighbor apparently losing his wife and daughter. The implication that the Neighbor was driven generically “mad” by his grief and now abducts children to attempt to fill the void in his life is offensively disconnected from any real psychological examination and did nothing to make me regard the Neighbor as more sympathetic. (Not that the boy’s coping with his childhood trauma in the third act feels any more realistic or profound.)

The novelty of the game and its colorful aesthetics don’t make up for its many, many structural flaws. This isn’t anything new to say; there are plenty of professional critic and consumer reviews that all reflect similar concerns. Metacritic reports an aggregated score of 39 for the Switch and 38 for the PC. It’s been out for about a year on the Switch, almost two years for PCs. I should have known better. But it can be hard to tell when a game is mediocre but still offering an interesting mechanic or story to make it worthwhile, and when a game is just outright bad. And of course, it’s more than a little bit of a subjective measure anyway. But I would add to the chorus of voices saying that Hello Neighbor is a plain old bad game.

Don’t make my mistake. Don’t ignore the overwhelming critical consensus here. There are plenty of games on the Switch. Choose something better. Choose anything else.

A little here and there

I’ve had a lovely weekend. Today was really special in particular. It was a beautiful day. My wife and I put a lot of time and attention into training the puppy today, and it’s really shown off. We’re reinforcing learned tricks and introducing new ones and we’re happy with the pace, especially since she hasn’t been to obedience school yet. She seems so smart and picks up on things really quickly. Other than that, my day has been a little bit housework, a little bit yard work, a little bit of catch-up on my day job, and more than a little bit of leisure time.

If you can’t tell already, this is one of those meandering posts where I don’t have much to say but still wanted to check in. As per usual with these sorts of posts, I’ll at least briefly discuss the things I’m into that may or may not pop up on the blog in the near future.

After two months of homeownership, I finally pulled the Nintendo Switch and games out of storage in the guest bedroom. The first month was busy enough that video games were the last thing on my mind. The last month has been a little more focused on movies and reading, with admittedly way too much familiar TV thrown in. But I started getting the itch. Putting Desert Child on hold for a moment, I picked up Hello Neighbor. That’s a game that has an interesting concept but struggles in execution, and I’ll probably have more of a review when I either finish a play-through of the (relatively short) game or get exhausted by it, whichever comes first. For point of reference, I’m in the middle of Act 2 of 3. It’s a game where I wish I’d relied more on the available reviews. But of course, reviews are a subjective thing, and even a “bad” game can be something to be enjoyed. Just by way of example, I loved the simple action-RPG-lite beat-’em-up gameplay and branching story of X-Men: Destiny, even while recognizing that most of the complaints about that game were pretty valid (in fact-checking my memory of this game and reviews of the time, by the way, I was surprised to see that it had been de-listed from online stores and had unsold copies destroyed because of a legal dispute; now I really regret my decision to get rid of my copy, even though it was a game I likely wouldn’t play again and was taking up limited shelf space).

As for TV, I started The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, which I can only watch when my wife’s not around (she hates puppetry, and stop-motion as well), and I’ve continued to slowly move through the quite fast-paced and bite-sized Adventure Time because I can only watch it when my wife is around (we were stalled for a long time because she just wasn’t in the mood, which is just baffling to me).

I’m reading too many things and moving too slowly, so I don’t have any interesting updates there. I did, however, learn from my wife that Netflix is going to release a series about Madam C.J. Walker, based on On Her Own Ground, in 2020, so that’s kind of a weird coincidence.

To close out my pop culture consumption, I don’t really have any movie updates, either. I’m mostly just eager to see The Rise of Skywalker in December (though weirdly I might be more excited for the next Jurassic World movie and associated TV series, even though I’ve still got quite a while to wait on both–I do love me some dinosaurs).

And…that’ll just about do it! Have a good week, folks.