Backloggin' Fool BigBlueWolf’s profile

TAKING A BREAK

Not really active in the group or on SteamGifts these days. But if I complete something I’ll update it here every now and then.

Cross of the Dutchman

Cross of the Dutchman

Completed

3.4 hours, 7/10
31 of 31 achievements
Beaten: *-Nov-2018

Click the "My Review" tag!
Deadpool

Deadpool

Beaten

11.8 hours, 8.5/10
28 of 50 achievements
Beaten: *-Nov-2018

Click the "My Review" tag!
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator

Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator

Beaten

3.5 hours, 9/10
4 of 19 achievements
Beaten: *-Nov-2018

Click the "My Review" tag!
klocki

klocki

Completed

1.5 hours, 8/10
1 of 1 achievement
Beaten: *-Nov-2018

Click the "My Review" tag!

Batch 24 Complete!

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

Beaten
My Review
14.3 hours, 7/10
17 of 26 achievements
Old West arcade
Beaten: 15-Nov-2018

Click the "My Review" tag!
Glass Masquerade

Glass Masquerade

Completed

3.8 hours, 9/10
30 of 30 achievements
Delightfully paneful
Beaten: 26-Oct-2018

This is a very casual puzzle game of assembling pieces to complete stained glass clock faces. Fashioned with a "countries-of-the-world" theme, the artwork is gorgeous. There's no penalty for taking your time, just sit back and enjoy working on pretty pictures. It's beautiful, low-key fun!
Hexcells Plus

Hexcells Plus

Completed

10.9 hours, 10/10
6 of 6 achievements
Hexalicious!
Beaten: 17-Nov-2018

This is a great puzzle game, the second in a series, that pits the player against various boards that can be solved with deduction and patience. The game format is similar to Minesweeper, except that instead of avoiding certain cells you are trying to locate and mark them appropriately. The clues are also much more varied giving indications of not only the number of adjacent "pattern cells" but also how they are distributed across lines and area fields. If you haven't tried any of the Hexcells series, they are well worth the effort.
Human Resource Machine

Human Resource Machine

Completed

4 hours, 7/10
16 of 16 achievements
Some assembly required
Beaten: 4-Nov-2018

As a game based around programming in assembly language (low-level machine code) Human Resource Machine actually does a clever presentation of puzzles as the mind-numbing efforts of a wage slave trying to please bosses who are corporate tools. But the interface isn't that great, with programs often taking up a lot more space than is visually available and the decision logic being a mess of arrows that often go off screen because of the limited view. This makes the harder puzzles a lot more difficult than they should be because it's already challenging to keep track of each program's flow. I feel like I also had an advantage over the average player because of my programming background. For the last third of the game I mostly used a guide because the aforementioned limitation plus the subject matter made the effort too tedious.

Given that 7 Billion Humans, the next title in the series, promises more of the same thing I'm not planning on buying it.
LiS: Before the Storm

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Completed
Nov '18 Theme My Review
10 hours, 8/10
34 of 34 achievements
Subject: Chloe Price
Beaten: 9-Nov-2018

Click the "My Review" tag!
LiS: Before the Storm

Metro 2033 Redux

Beaten

18.1 hours, 8.5/10
44 of 49 achievements
Apocalyptic transit pass
Beaten: 20-Nov-2018

An incredibly atmospheric FPS! I finally got the itch to play this, and I wasn't disappointed. You are immediately sucked into the world of post-nuclear war Moscow where the citizens live in fortified subway stations and travel through the underground rail passages. The controls handle well on a keyboard and mouse. Only a few odd glitches, such as aiming throwing knifes seems to have hit boxes that are slightly smaller than the humans you need to take out. But nothing that affects the overall difficulty or enjoyment of the game. Although there are no skills trees here, you can opt to play in "Spartan" or "Survival" mode -- basically run-and-gun or stealth -- and choose your difficulty level for either. To prevent you from going full Rambo in Survival mode, ammo and supplies are supposed to be a lot more limited. I played Spartan as it gave the most options for achievements.

The story is enjoyable albeit not terribly complex. Excellent voice acting (except for the children -- seriously bad) and some interesting people you cross paths with. The characters do a remarkable job of keeping the tension wound tight with nervous banter and attempts to make jokes that fall flat because they can't alleviate the brooding sense of doom. If there was only one nitpick it's that the story leaves a huge question unresolved. Perhaps that will be answered in the next game.

For those who are thinking of jumping into this series, this is the game you start with. Last Light follows. And then it's on to Exodus next year :)

Batch 23 and Spooktober Update

Hey hey! Finished all my monthly challenge games a little early. Might squeak in one more before Halloween. Hope everyone is having a great month! :D

The Cat Lady

The Cat Lady

Oct '18 Theme
Completed

8.2 hours, 8/10
25 of 25 achievements
How to use nine lives
Beaten: 7-Oct-2018

Despite being released in 2013, this game looks and plays like a 2D, side-scrolling adventure that was released on Windows-95. The "choose-and-click" interface only uses the keyboard. However it's strength is the story, which is why this game gets such high review marks. You play Susan, a reclusive, suicidal woman who feeds the neighborhood stray cats. But suicide doesn't quite work out, and a supernatural entity enlists her to deal with several murderers who prey on the people in her run-down London neighborhood.

Despite the sometimes lengthy exposition, the psychological tension and horror elements hold together really well, even if there are some unanswered and dangling questions left by the end. Susan is a likable protagonist and is joined later by another likable character. And even though the graphics occupy a weird space mixing hand-drawn, photo-realistic and pixel art, the imagery is incredibly creepy and disturbing. It makes me wonder how much better the game would be if it had a modern graphical front-end on it. It would probably be considered a must-play title of the genre.

On the down side, the game locks out use of your mouse in the Steam overlay, and alt-tab'ing to the desktop will crash the game most of the time. If you need to interrupt play it's best to save the game and exit properly. You will be frozen out of tapping the ESC key to get to the game's options menu for really long stretches, so it's good to save after these points when you regain control. This is critical if you are replaying a chapter for achievements. Otherwise you may find yourself having to repeat these stretches as there's no "fast-forward" key like in some visual novels, only the spacebar that allows skipping character dialog turns but won't affect parts where characters pause, don't speak or perform cutscenes. Its native resolution in 800x600 with no option for windowed mode, but there are some forum posts about getting to it to look good on an HD or 4K monitor.

If you're looking for a good story-driven horror game and don't mind old technology, definitely consider picking this up.
Deadlight: Director's Cut

Deadlight Director's Cut

Oct '18 Theme
Beaten
My Review
8.2 hours, 6/10
29 of 32 achievements
2D zombie apocalypse
Beaten: 17-Oct-2018

Click the "My Review" button!
Layers of Fear: Masterpiece Edition

Layers of Fear Masterpiece Edition

Oct '18 Theme
Completed
Extra Playthrough
My Review
15.6 hours, 7/10
27 of 27 achievements
Make mad art
Beaten: 8-Oct-2018

Click the "My Review" button!
STASIS

STASIS

Oct '18 Theme
Completed

8 hours, 7.5/10
27 of 27 achievements
In space no one can hear you sleep
Beaten: 5-Oct-2018

A man named John wakes up from stasis aboard a derelict spaceship and proceeds to uncover the unspeakable things going on there. This point-and-click bears some similarities in tone and style to SOMA but is shown from an isometric view. It's technically solid even if the interface is dated. The game play focuses on carefully examining your surroundings to find, combine and use objects to proceed to the next area or chapter. A handful require you to gather codes or info for data entry. Clues are found in various PDAs or displays scattered about, forcing you to read more of the story as told by the observations of the now dead crew members. There were only a few places I got stuck and needed a hint. But despite the gruesome visuals and tense pacing, the story seemed a bit derivative and much of it was predictable. If you are looking for sci-fi horror though it's not a bad way to spend a few hours.
Styx: Master of Shadows

Styx: Master of Shadows

Won on SteamGifts Oct '18 Theme
Abandoned
My Review
29.2 hours, 5/10
23 of 33 achievements
Alas, poor Styx ...
Beaten: n/a

Click the "My Review" button!

Batch 22 Completed and September Wrap-Up!

I managed to knock out four games in the monthly challenge “Otterly Cute” and two of those were SG Wins!

Click the down arrows for my thoughts and reviews of these games. Hope everyone’s had a great month :D

Animal Lover

Animal Lover

Sept '18 Theme
24/24 (100%) │ 6 hours │ 7.5/10
Five guys, an intern, and a curse
Beaten: 14-Sept-2018

This is the first dating sim/visual novel since I played Hatoful Boyfriend back in mid-2016 (Batch 6). While the tone of both appear light -- human girl in a high school for pigeons versus young woman caring for guys who suffer from turning into animals -- Animal Lover takes itself much more seriously. This was a bit unexpected, and the tone worked really well in some places, but it ultimately couldn't overcome the fantastical silliness of its situation and resolution.

The non-spoiler setup: as a young female veterinary intern (pick your name) you accidentally release a guy from his cursed animal form. After tracking down a few others like him, you have five guys in desperate need of your help because they periodically change back and (for a variety of reasons) can't go back to living their normal lives. Lots of dialogue, hanging out and some "crushing" commences as the game puts you on the path to making sure the curse is really broken and you end up with one of the guys (or none). BTW, the plot has nothing to do with "furries".

A big part of the reason the game falters is because it's REALLY long doing a single play-through during which very little actually happens. I finished the game in just under 6 hours, and that was speed reading through most of the last half of the game.

A huge amount of the dialogue contributes to drawn-out character moments of little value to the overall story. There's a lot of filler text that is either hearing "your" thoughts and mental reaction in monologue-like detail before responding, or the audible reactions of others where there's a lot of "hmm", "uhs", and other interjections that cause the plot to stall while we wait for the "realistic dialogue" to play out. I got so impatient having to read this that I just kept hitting the spacebar as fast as I could through many scenes and don't think I missed much as a result. I also used an achievement guide so I could find the canonical ending and be able to backtrack to pick the guy I liked best. That being said there were some really GOOD scenes sprinkled pretty evenly throughout the story, and that's what kept me intrigued enough to play through the entire thing.

This is not a genre I usually play, but I'm trying it out simply because it seems like it could have a cool premise if a talented writing team was behind it. I'd say this story was between fair and good and could have benefited from being about one-third shorter in length to bump that rating a little higher.

If you are trying to choose between this and Hatoful Boyfriend, go with the latter if you want shorter and funnier!
Botanicula

Botanicula

Sept '18 Theme
53/53 (100%) │ 4.7 hours │ 9.5/10
Bing, hum, whooo!
Beaten: 27-Sept-2018

The most charming game of this batch, Botanicula is a point-and-click adventure that sets five companions on a quest to defeat an invading force of life-sucking spider-like creatures that are encroaching on their idyllic biome that is teaming with other critters. Great visual humor, wonderful sound effects, and not-terribly-hard puzzles encourage exploration and rooting for the little group on their journey. A good portion of game is discovering all the different local wildlife. There are 123 cards to unlock throughout the game, and while the cards themselves are not achievements, getting the first, second and final third will unlock some bonus animation content after the credits. Only a few places where controls felt a little wonky, and it would have been great to have true full screen play area. But lots of smiles and several laugh-out-loud moments playing this one. Fun for all ages without being strictly for kids.
Epistory - Typing Chronicles

Epistory - Typing Chronicles

Won on SteamGifts Sept '18 Theme
47/55 (85%) │ 12.1 hours │ 7.5/10
Is it your type of game?
Beaten: 8-Sept-2018

Epistory is a typing game where you adventure through a pop-up paper mache world on a quest to figure out who you are and what has happened to the familiar world. It's got a cool aesthetic and can be genuinely fun. However the repetitive nature of the challenges gets a bit boring at times. Fortunately the game isn't overly long. The story is pretty thin, too. But the game is still worth playing because it's gorgeous to behold and stands out because it's game play is challenging (adapts to your typing speed) and so different from anything else.
Hook

Hook


1/1 (100%) │ 1.5 hours │ 10/10
Go on, press the button!
Beaten: 23-Sept-2018

A short, but fun puzzler! Untangle your way through 50 levels of interlocking pins, routers, circuits and release buttons. There are no hidden tricks or strategy, just the ability to follow paths and deduce the order needed to solve the puzzle. Very enjoyable with low/medium challenge. A easy 100% for achievement hunters. Just finish the game.
The LEGO Movie - Videogame

The LEGO Movie - Videogame

Won on SteamGifts Sept '18 Theme
44/48 (92%) │ 16.5 hours │ 7.5/10
Everything is awesome!
Beaten: 21-Sept-2018

This is my fourth LEGO game, and so far I have to say it was the most fun. The variety to the levels and the amount of things you get to do is pretty cool and the story is cute. There were a lot of fun characters, but Unikitty was awesome playing in rage mode. On the downside the controls were annoyingly imprecise and the camera control pretty flaky in a lot of spots. The game also has a lot of lag problems where the screen would repeatedly freeze for a few seconds. It didn't cause any missions to fail, but it was super annoying. Given that my system has a GTX 1080 in it, I chalk this up to bad optimization when porting the game to PC.
Tyranny

Tyranny


32/70 (46%) │ 58 hours │ 8/10
Conquest ... Sauron style
Beaten: 9-Sep-2018

I almost decided not to play this game. I got it shortly after finishing Pillars of Eternity so I wanted to try other kinds of games. But life happened and I kept putting off playing it. So around the beginning of summer with PoE2: Deadfire coming out and a new relationship starting up, I initially moved Tyranny into the "maybe some day" pile.

Then a few weeks ago I said screw it and plunged in. I'm glad I did!

First and foremost, Tyranny is a great game because a) you get to play the bad guy, and b) there's a ton of world-building in this game that completely immerses you in the role. As one of Kyros' Fatebinders, it's your job to enforce the law and keep his top lieutenants (called Archons) on task. The effect you have on The Tiers -- Kyros' last area to conquer on the continent -- can be just as monstrous as the others who hold power, but even if you try to do good there's still a lot of bloodshed and disturbing decisions to be made. The game is fairly unique in that regard. The recruitable NPCs are also varied and quite fun with a lot of background to delve into and multiple skill-trees to specialize according to your wants or needs. I don't think there's a weak link among them, though admittedly I stuck mostly with the first three you meet in-game. There's a loyalty/fear system that plays heavily into how people react to you, but that's not the same as morality. In fact, inspiring loyalty sometimes means doing awful things, and fear can occasionally be the result of trying to do the right thing. Tyranny forces you to think like a ruler who applies power rather than appealing to peoples' better angels. You're not even really an anti-hero; the moral grays are too thick to be the villain people can't help but love. It makes the game a phenomenal departure from all the "I'm here to save the world" tropes.

The true strength of this game comes out in its player choices. There are four possible major endings -- but those are arcs and not nearly as dramatic as the tons of small decisions that make one player's experience very different from the next. Choices really do matter here, making re-playability a huge bonus. It's largely about the flavor and tone of each situation and person and how you interact with them that carries forward in the evolution of the major plot fork that you've chosen.

But it's far from perfect. There are still bugs in the game that are quite maddening (lost saves) or frustrating (really quirky AI) in combat. But as a game that is built on the same engine as Pillars of Eternity it is definitely worth playing if CRPGs and wanting to give Sauron's style of rule a chance sounds like your kind of thing. And since it's around 60% of the run-length of PoE, a second or third playthough is do-able in a reasonable amount of time. I'm going to give it another go myself at some point. :)
What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch


9/9 (100%) │ 2.5 hours │ 9/10
Death runs in the family
Beaten: 15-Sep-2018

The folks at Giant Sparrow have created a marvelous game that certainly wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but as far as walking simulators go this one is among the very best, offering an intimate if morbid short story about the Finch family and it's tendency to find death early. Since the game's focus is completely on the story I'm not going to discuss the plot because it clocks in at 2-3 hours, so it's not terribly long. But the ingenuity of the designers to take different chapters and present them in a variety of narrative and mini-game formats is the stuff of masterful design. There's also a great bit toward the end that canonically ties WRoEF with another game Giant Sparrow made for the Playstation. I was completely delighted by the inclusion! From a purely aesthetic point of view, the Finch house is so wonderfully detailed that it's cool to just wander around and look all the things in it's rooms, halls and hidden places. The audio narration and sound ties it all together. If you are a fan of this type of game, it's a must play!

Batch 21 and August Wrap-Up

ABZÛ

ABZÛ


12/12 (100%) │ 4.4 hours │ 8.5/10
Day at the aquarium
Beaten: 7-Aug-2018

An underwater exploration game. Strictly speaking there's really not much game play here. Swimming simulator? But it's crazy beautiful nonetheless. And a tad weird because I didn't understand the machine aspect of the story. Anyway this was made by the people who made Journey for the Playstation, and it's a relaxing cross between mystical ocean meditation and a trip to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium (where I visited two weekends ago :D). Worth playing because it's short and just amazing to look at.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit


No Achievements │ 1.6 hours │ 8.5/10
Life is imagination
Beaten: 4-Aug-2018

Despite the fact that this is a "prelude" to Life Is Strange 2, the story is firmly rooted in an all-too-ordinary Saturday morning in Beaver Creek, OR, where Chris -- all 9-year old with an active imagination -- keeps himself entertained playing superheroes while his alcoholic dad watches TV. There's not much in terms of a game element here besides finding things for Chris to do, but the script is top-notch and the voice-acting utterly convincing as you learn in bits and pieces what family life is like under this roof. I won't say much more because the experience is quite short, but if you are a fan of this series it's a great teaser for the next game.
The Banner Saga 3

The Banner Saga 3

KS Backer
30/50 (60%) │ 29.4 hours │ 7.5/10
Apocalypse now
Beaten: 29-Jul-2018

The end has finally come for this series. Let me start of by saying that I absolutely adored parts 1 & 2. That makes this final game a small let-down because in wrapping things up the writers seem to have undercut a lot of the story elements. This is the number one complaint among the game's fans on the forums, and I have to agree. Even though there is a range of endings depending on your choices, they are so many threads left hanging without even an epilogue to provide the kind of closure needed after struggling and suffering with this incredible cast of characters in this fascinating world. There's a call for this in a game patch, and I'm likely going to wait and see what the devs say about it before attempting my next playthrough.

The combat is still the same turn-based alternating strategy, except for a really nice touch to the wave battles that allow you to trade out for fresh units from your character pool if you successfully clean the board before enemy reinforcements are called in. Unfortunately you have to be really careful at leveling characters to 9 and 10 because it costs a lot of Renown to do so. And despite being able to go to level 15, the key is level 11 where you can apply a Title to a character that has 5 levels on it's own and confers some pretty amazing attack/defense/support buffs that end up being critical as enemies get tougher. In the end, however, my characters still felt tremendously under-leveled for what was being thrown at them. Doubtless this is also a matter of finding the best combos of characters, leveling, and items to use.

All in all this was a good game that needed more attention to the story element, which has always been the series' strong point. Here it felt a little lackluster.
Broken Age

Broken Age

Won on SteamGifts
40/45 (89%) │ 9.6 hours │ 7.5/10
Worlds collide
Beaten: 30-Aug-2018

A very cute game with a fun story behind it. However I have to agree with many other reviewers in that the balance between the two halves is very uneven. The first part focused mostly on story with light puzzle-solving, whereas the last part the kept up with the story but delivered hard puzzles that often had no context from which to figure out what needed to be done and in what order. I had to use a guide to finish. Otherwise I found it very enjoyable and the humor even had my other half chuckling at times. :)
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided - A Criminal Past

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided - A Criminal Past


10/10 (100%) │ 5.6 hours │ 8/10
Augmented undercover
Beaten: 3-Aug-2018

This was a quick return trip to the world of Deus Ex after buying the DLC pack during the summer Steam Sale. A Criminal Past is a good story focusing on Adam going undercover in a prison to retrieve another deep cover agent. Of course, things start going sideways almost from the get-go as there are shady things going on in the prison that complicate Adam's objective. Definitely worth a play-through if you have this add-on!
Dust: An Elysian Tail

Dust: An Elysian Tail


24/30 (80%) │ 15.1 hours │ 8/10
Cartoon cat assassin
Beaten: 16-Aug-2018

I really wanted to like this game. But while the game-play was solid, the story felt dumbed-down and predictable to a fault. It didn't help that the world was populated by low-budget cartoon characters that looked like they were CGI'd into the beautiful scenery. Fidget was the only character I liked because she had a great personality and all the good lines. Everyone else I wanted to skip past their dialogue after the first couple of sessions. This is definitely worthwhile to fans of platformers because it has some cool combat mechanics in it, although it's no Ori and the Blind Forest. Guess it just wasn't my thing. But high marks for play-ability and the fact that it was mostly designed and programmed by a single guy.
Dust: An Elysian Tail

Maize


No Achievements │ 3.7 hours │ 5/10
A little too corny
Beaten: 24-Aug-2018

[Sad trombone...] The comedic setup sounds good -- an isolated farm when sentient corn has been created. Unfortunately, the game fails to deliver much in the way of game-play or an engaging story. With only two mini-game exceptions you pick up objects in an area and combine/use them, but nothing about this is remotely challenging. A good story could have made up for this shortfall, but it never got past cute, missed a lot of potential, and many jokes (like the teddy bear, Vladdy) got tiresomely repetitive. Thankfully it was short because it couldn't have gone on much longer without becoming tedious. Still, it's bound to leave many people feeling unsatisfied like myself. Unless you are really motivated by the premise your time is better spent on something more entertaining.
Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines

No End

69/90 (77%) │ 95 hours │ 8.5/10
Call me Mr. Mayor
Beaten: 14-July-2018

Since C:S can go on indefinitely, I had to set a goal for myself. Yesterday I reached the "Metropolis" achievement (100K population) and today unlocked all but one monument (didn't get the Medical Center). As it turns out the remaining four achievements from the base game would require me to start a new city anyway based on the posts I was reading about how to approach them. That finalized it in my head. I've completed a single play-through and beaten C:S!

Of course there's tons of stuff in the game I haven't really tried yet, and I'm a pretty casual player who will nonetheless spend a lot of time fussing over little details instead of advancing my city. Take the 95 hours with a grain of salt because I've been playing it off-and-on since November 2015. It's such a well-done city simulator that I will pick it up again eventually. I have all the DLC except for Park Life. There's also a ton of options to play with in the Steam workshop. A mayor's job in never really done! ;-)

My last game for the next month or so… this one is definitely a high recommendation if you own a PS4!

Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn

PS4

1/2/5/56 (100%) │ 58 hours │ 9/10
Good sci-fi!
Beaten: 24-Jun-2018

This game's reputation as one of the best of the current console generation is well-deserved. Everything about it: the deep story, amazing art direction, high-level graphics and entertaining game play have been polished like glistening metal! Although it doesn't beat The Witcher 3's sheer size, ambition, and level of detail, HZD manages to craft a mesmerizing and beautiful world of its own. And while many a game has been set in a post-apocalyptic setting, HZD immediately establishes a unique, fractured world of primitive human civilization that exists alongside amazing working technology in the form of robotic animals that roam the countryside. Machines are dangerous, feared, respected, and hunted. Scrap metal and pieces of machines are valuable commodities for building materials, clothing, armor and trade. You play as Aloy, a young outcast girl from a highly religious tribe. The primary quest is tracking down a group of cultists who are responsible for a deadly attack on the tribe's lands, but this task takes on much larger dimensions that leads to the discovery of what destroyed Earth's civilization and why robots are everywhere in the world now. (Minor spoiler: thankfully, aliens have no role this time.) If you enjoy open-world games this is a must-play!

Batch 20 and Monthly Theme Report for May

Conquered a lot of games in this batch. I now only have two gift games I haven’t played yet. This was a great theme idea! Somehow this batch ended up being heavily titled toward puzzle games. So the next things I play are probably going to break from that unless they are short! :)

 Blockwick 2

Blockwick 2

 

12/14 (86%) │ 8/10 │ 27 hours
I need that over here, dammit!
Beaten: 11-May-2018

This game is a spin on the classic puzzle where you have a set of movable blocks in a grid that only leaves a few open spaces to slide them around in the attempt to unscramble a picture or pattern sequence. However in B2 you only have to arrange same-color blocks so that they all connect. And while that may sound pretty easy -- and is at Level 1-- it gets a lot more tricky when new kinds of blocks are introduced: blocks permanently fixed to a position, multiple blocks that are not connected but move in tandem, blocks that form chains moving like a caterpillar, rolling blocks whose color is what is currently face up, blocks that are only movable after the same color touches them, "hypnosis" blocks that make color blocks immobile if they touch them, and sticky blocks that can only be moved by blocks attached to them and have to be peeled off using other surfaces. Combine a bunch of these and you can have a real head-spinner in front of you. Not to mention some puzzles are so tightly packed or have blocks with such odd shapes that getting enough space to move larger ones is very challenging. There's also a bonus win scenario called "illumination" where the color blocks are arranged properly but also cover three glyphs on the puzzle. This usually involves quite a bit more experimentation to position the blocks correctly.

I did most of these on my own, but there were many where I had to go to a guide because I didn't want to spend hours trying to figure them out. The game can be a little frustrating in that regard, but there's also a means of skipping a puzzle if it's too hard so you can come back to it later.

If you like puzzle games I highly recommend this, although it will take a LONG time to finish if you are a completionist. The main game has 10 levels and 160 puzzles, but there is also a "Basics" section that adds 144 more, albeit less challenging puzzles. I didn't bother finishing them because after 27 hours I had my fill! However at a retail price of $7.99 USD you more than get your money's worth even when not on sale.
Consortium

CONSORTIUM

 

28/39 (72%) │ 8.5/10 │ 12.5 hours
Bishop interrogates pawn
Beaten: 5-May-2018

Initially tried this some years ago and put it down after an hour or so, but I always felt a nagging need to return to it. Now I know why. I was drawn to the story but wasn't in the right head-space at the time to give it the attention it deserved. I'm glad I finally returned to it. It's like an episode from a science-fiction TV series. The game even references Star Trek in banter. The Consortium is a multi-national peace-keeping force. You are a type of Special Ops officer aboard one of its command ships (the Zenlil) in the year 2042. You are also harboring a secret -- you are actually a person on present-day Earth playing a VR video game that has replaced the mind of this officer unbeknownst to the crew. The plot then leaves you to navigate events as best you can as the ship is thrown into the middle of a raging political conflict between multiple factions and the omnipresent Consortium A.I. known as "The King".

There's a lot of exploration, talking, investigation, and some FPS play during combat sequences, complete with inventory and a few different kinds of weapons to swap between. It also has wide-ranging choices in the branching narrative. Your decisions really do matter here. And that makes it pretty intriguing because if you are enjoying the story you'll want to go back to see how alternative choices play out. It's definitely worth a play-through if you enjoy story-rich games, and it's not a massive time sink since a single run will probably be about 4-5 hours if you don't stop to backtrack. The voice acting is a little uneven with some actors doing a much better job than others, but overall the characters hit their marks well and are both engaging and interesting.

Fair warning, though. The game ends on an unavoidable cliffhanger that's a setup for the next title Consortium: The Tower, which is currently in Early Access! :)
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

PS4

1/8/6/4 (100%) │ 7.5/10 │ 9 hours
The end of the world as we know it
Beaten: 24-May-2018

Played this one as a free title I got through my PSN Plus membership (but is also available on Steam). This game is another gorgeous walking simulator from the same team that made Dear Esther. However this title has a lot more story going for it as you wander through the idyllic village of Yaughton in Shropshire, England, where the town's residents have all vanished. The story plays out as you encounter points where re-enactments of events are triggered to show the experiences of five different people involved in the story. At the center of it all is Steven and Kate, a scientist couple who work at the radio telescope observatory nearby and may in fact be responsible for setting into motion the reason behind the disappearances.

In addition to the obviously beautiful sightseeing tour, the story is fairly good in large part due to the quality of writing, the excellent soundtrack, and the voice talent that brings the characters to life. Only voices are used here. People are represented as figures giving the vaguest impressions of their physical selves. The tale is appropriately bittersweet as it focuses more on the personal relationships between the characters and the effect the unfolding events has on them as their family, friends and neighbors grow more skeptical of official explanations and succumb to the "vanishing". While clearly not everyone's type of game, for those who enjoy the discovery a story piece-by-piece in a non-linear fashion it's a nice experience to get lost in. It's playable in 3-4 evenings, exploring around one area per session.

As a side note, many people take issue with the slow speed of the player's movement. Holding down R2 on your controller (or Shift on your KB) will ramp up movement from a walk to a jog. This feature was not published in the game control description and will help cut time somewhat. Despite this, EGttR will still be a sticking point with anyone who isn't patient with the pace it sets.
Obduction

Obduction

Gift May '18 Theme
15/15 (100%) │ 8/10 │ 10 hours
Not to be myst
Beaten: 29-May-2018

A great first-person puzzle game from the creators of Myst and Riven. The game play is quite similar but with a full 3D environment, no "hot spot" hunting, and a new story in a different setting. You are almost immediately transported to an odd world that looks like a part of the Arizona desert has been transplanted into a bubble on an alien world. And it turns out you are the most recent in a long line of abductees from Earth spanning nearly 200 years. But what is the intention of your captors? And where is everyone else? It looks like people have been living there for a long time with something resembling normal lives -- albeit rustic -- based on the things left behind. It's your job to solve the various mechanical puzzles that will open new areas, rooms, and ... other places ... containing clues about what it going on. Overall a fun game with challenging puzzles, but nothing that you can't figure out with experimentation and keeping track of anything interesting you come across. Fortunately there is an in-game camera that helps in this regard since you don't have an inventory. Want to remember something you saw? A code, some notes, a map? Take a picture of it. The only problem I had with this game was that trying to do it with my Vive left me feeling queasy in a very short amount of time, so I gave up on that. Which is too bad.

This game was a gift from a co-worker that I helped with a major project. Thanks, Donna! :)
Refunct

Refunct

Gift May '18 Theme
9/10 (90%) │ 8/10 │ 1.9 hours
Blockstacle course
Beaten: 2-May-2018

A simple but fun game. Basically a parkour-style "race to the next location" maze where each new goal is revealed when you hit the button marking the latest goal. The maze never changes, so you can get more familiar with where to go and improve your time, which is necessary for unlocking some of the achievements. Also each ground section will turn color once when you first touch it, marking places you've already been. This is for tracking on other achievements. Despite the fact that the game is short and is the same thing on each run, it still quite enjoyable going through several times to get a better score. It doesn't pretend to be anything else and the simplicity is refreshing.

This game was a surprise gift from a SG user I don't remember who liked the fact that I gave away a lot of good games.
The Room Two

The Room Two

Gift May '18 Theme
7/7 (100%) │ 8/10 │ 2.9 hours
Clever contraptions
Beaten: 18-May-2018

Much like it's predecessor, this game is visually gorgeous and intriguing. Continuing the story from where it left off, you are tasked with solving not just puzzle boxes but whole rooms that the puzzle boxes sit in. As the player it appears you have no choice as these rooms are linked and there is no way to go backward. Prodded on by the notes of a mysterious traveler who might be just ahead of you somewhere, you'll ponder all kinds of devices, switches, hidden compartments and secret messages that help you solve each space bit-by-bit. The game is fun and short, especially with the hint system turned on. There's no penalty for that, but if you want more of a challenge turn the hints off in the Options menu. And once you've made it to the end, ponder what other deviousness must certainly await when The Room Three is released!

Many thanks to Downward Concept who gifted this to me! :D
Undertale

Undertale

Gift May '18 Theme
No Achievements │ 5/10 │ 2 hours
Didn't impress
Abandoned: 11-May-2018

I'm all for giving a new spin on old ideas a try. But in the course of around two hours of play I missed the charm that so many others found in Undertale. More's the pity, too, since it was a gift from over a year ago from a fellow SG user. I was trying for the Pacifist play-through and didn't quite finish the Snowdin level, often having to refer to a guide about how to beat certain enemies without attacking them. It's cute, I'll give it that. But the repetition and monotony of the random encounters using the "avoid getting hit" mini-game burned through my good will and patience. Perhaps I should have given it more of a chance, but finally gave up because I really wasn't enjoying it like I thought I would. :(

No batch this time, but two more games off the backlog!

Got a lot of other things going on right now, so gaming is taking a backseat for awhile. Hope everyone is having a great spring!

Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight Premium Edition

My Review
66/113 (58%) │ 7/10 │ 45.6 hours
Arkham Grand Prix
Beaten: 14-Apr-2018

No performance issues that plagued the launch of this game, but I consider it the low point of the series. Review on Steam! (link above)
Hexcells

Hexcells

 

6/6 (100%) │ 8/10 │ 3 hours
Reverse Minesweeper
Beaten: 19-Apr-2018

Not a lot to say here except that it's a fun little puzzle game that inverts the classic Minesweeper, plays on a hex grid, and introduces some new ways to give hints about what the hidden cells contain. Fun!

A Short Batch 19… But A Lot of Playtime!

Wrapping up March, I got back into the full swing of gaming again after defeating my diagnosis of repetitive stress injury by treating myself for Tension Myositis Syndrome. To that effect, I successfully put in 112 hours to reach level 34 and finish the main plot line for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt without any significant discomfort in hands. YAY!

Loved the game. My criticism (yes I had a nitpick about the story) I put in my official review on Steam. But the game is pure gold, and I haven’t even tackled the DLC yet. So there’s more there to do in April.

Edit (4-Apr-2018): Completed the “Hearts of Stone” DLC!

Because I spent so much time Witcher-ing, this batch ended up on the short side. Got another SG win under my belt. And started SOMA (already in my library) a few days before it was included in the latest Humble Bundle. I almost never have nightmares, but weirdly enough I had one after staying up late one night playing this game. The helplessness of your character in the game is pretty brutal when you are trying to avoid the monsters. Must have left an impression after I went to bed.

… Boo!

Onward to Batch 20!

Paws: A Shelter 2 Game

Paws: A Shelter 2 Game

Won on SteamGifts
19/19 (100%) │ 8/10 │ 8.3 hours
Pitter patter
Beaten: 30-Mar-2018

A fun, short game based on Shelter 2. You get to be a lynx cub this time and have an adventure when you get separated from your mother and siblings. As you make your way through the wilderness there are other animals to meet and different things to eat. Also different collectables to obtain. It's a heart-warming little game. The choice at the end is bittersweet no matter what path you take. Might bring a tear to the eye of some. One choice choked me up more than the other. :) The game isn't hard to get 100% achievements, but five of them are grinds. Fortunately there are spots to farm many of them. To get 50 eggs in the swamp there is a spot shortly after you leave it and start climbing the cliff that will indicate the game is being saved. From that point you can quit and restart and it will take you back to the beginning of the swamp again. Otherwise the nature of the saves would force you to do a new playthrough at only 8 eggs per run.
SOMA

SOMA

 

10/10 (100%) │ 8/10 │ 8.8 hours
Am I really me?
Beaten: 31-Mar-2018

SOMA is a well-told sci-fi horror story wherein you play Simon, a man trying to figure out what caused him to wake up in an undersea research facility, far from his home in Toronto. The game is a linear story with simple puzzles, and like it's predecessor the Amnesia series there are monsters on the prowl that you are powerless to fight. Your only defense is to run and hide. This leads to some pretty intense moments for what is basically a point-and-click/stealth game mechanic. It works incredibly well. As the central part of the game experience, the story raises a lot of philosophical questions about the nature of what it means to be human. I can't say much more without giving away major spoilers, so I'll leave it at that. You get 100% cheevos just playing the story through to the end. Important note: don't exit the game during the credits. There's a good post-credits scene you don't want to miss.
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Game of the Year Edition

Gift My Review
71/78 (91%) │ 8.5/10 │ 108 hours
Geralt's last contract
Beaten: 25-Mar-2018

This was a long overdue backlog entry, given to me as a gift by my brother around Christmas 2016. My review is posted on Steam!

PSA: On Chronic Pain and What I Learned Dealing With It

About a month ago I wrote a post detailing my repetitive stress injury in both hands and advice to others. While it was written with some good advice in mind, it turned out that the source of my pain was not RSI or carpal tunnel syndrome. Once I learned what it was and how to overcome it, I made tremendous progress at recovery.

What I’ve learned in a few short weeks is that when it comes to chronic pain and associated conditions, most people in the medical profession try to approach it from a “let’s fix a machine that’s not working correctly” perspective, implying that there’s a mechanical problem to be solved. The problem is that they are not very good at solving it, as the epidemic of chronic pain world-wide demonstrates. Worse yet, a lot of the standard treatments for chronic pain – physical therapy, drugs, surgery, etc. – are far from effective and quite often don’t work or only do so temporarily.

When I got my diagnosis I was initially calm, thinking I’d caught it early enough that I could easily beat it. But as my condition got worse, a real panic began to set in. Not being able to do work or leisure activities with my hands had me worried about my career foremost. And so I worked with my doctor to find the best possible therapeutic approach.

Around mid-February I was looking online for stories about people beating RSI, and I came across people who claimed to do so by following the advice of Dr. John Sarno.

Sarno was a medical doctor (d. 2017) who eventually devoted his career to treating chronic pain. He influenced many others who have followed in his path. However his work is still considered outside the mainstream. This is because he proposed that if a patient’s case had no direct evidence of a structural problem then there’s a good chance they were suffering from a condition he named Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS), a disorder where the brain unconsciously reinforces pain signals through stress, anxiety, fear and repressed emotions. This can result in a vicious cycle that can make life a living hell for its victims because the conventional therapies don’t provide relief. The pain could happen for no obvious cause or persist after an initial injury had long since healed.

If that sounds a little far-fetched, consider the well-known condition that amputees experience called phantom pain syndrome. Here the brain continues to fire a pain response for a limb that no longer exists. How is that even possible? TMS is a related condition except there’s no tissue damage. The brain has learned a pain response via over-sensitized nerves and an unconscious psychological process keeps the pain going long after it should have stopped.

The great thing about TMS is that it’s easily treatable. The main part of that treatment is:

  • Acknowledging that the pain isn’t a structural problem.
  • Reading and writing exercises that are designed to break the negative feedback loop and convince the sub-conscious brain to stop sending pain signals.
  • For persistent cases (no resolution after three months), working with a therapist in a group or one-on-one basis.

And yeah, it works.

I am quite a skeptic and rational person. But every medical professional had a different take on what was happening, and when a therapy didn’t work they were always ready to tell me how response is so different from person-to-person. And if tests (like my nerve conduction study that came back clear) didn’t support their diagnosis, they often seemed to be making up reasons for why I was experiencing my pain. So I was already half-convinced most of the experts I was talking to were only guessing. (Me: Wait a minute, you’re telling my I developed tendinitis simultaneously in every finger on both hands even though I use my left hand far less? Doctor: nods and says yes.)

Sarno and other doctors who practice the treatment of TMS are well aware of this problem. They point to it along with poor outcomes documented in medical journals as proof that a lot of treatments for chronic pain are not evidence-based.

I started doing my reading and writing exercises for TMS a little over three weeks ago. Within the first couple of days, my pain went through changes in type, sensitivity, and location – sometimes moving completely out of my hands and instead into my shoulders and back. In TMS this is a called “symptom imperative” where the brain attempts to compensate for the disruption by relocating the pain somewhere else.

Within another couple of days, I played a game on my PS4 for several hours with minimal discomfort.

This week has been mostly pain free. I’ve had symptoms flare up occasionally, as progress isn’t necessarily linear. But if you’d have told me in January I’d be back to all my normal activities in such a short time, I wouldn’t have thought it possible. I’ll continue my reading and writing. I expect within some number or weeks or months I will be writing a success story like many others.

If any of this intrigues you – whether dealing with your own stubborn chronic pain condition or simple curiosity – do yourself a favor and take some time to read about TMS and how people have defeated it to get their lives back. Chances are you might know someone who could benefit from looking into it, as long as they aren’t convinced that they all they need is the right exercises, pills, or low-success surgery option.

TMS is not a quack or new-age thing, it’s simply looking at the issue of pain from a perspective of the whole person and the psychological contribution to their health. Even better, it doesn’t really cost anything to treat unless you’re in a minority of people who would need to work with a therapist to get the most benefit. The majority of success stories don’t reach that point.

Here are some great resources I found online:

Here’s some favorite stories I read specifically about TMS and recovery from hand pain:

Be well. Take breaks from your gaming when necessary. And never underestimate just how huge a role stress can play in your life!