Debaser

Let it be known, this is where Jean Snow sounds off on his pop culture and gaming obsessions.

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Trials Frontier

Yet another free-to-play game I’m trying out, and again, how long I end up playing this will depend on how stingy it becomes with its resources — as I’ve said before, I’m willing to unlock stuff, but not pay for resources. So far I’m having a really fun time with this, and I’ve played quite a bit with nothing stopping me. I should say that I do quite like trials games in general, and so it’s a type of gameplay I’m already attracted to. I’m surprised I’m not having issues with the controls, considering you use on-screen buttons, but it does play quite well — but yes, I’d still prefer to play something like this on Vita, like Trials Evolution. So yes, it plays well (on iPad), the graphics are really nice and slick, and I’m even digging the loose storyline and setting (sort of western-like) they use to set up all the levels and the upgrade system (for your bike). I was having trouble putting it down, which also gets me that much more excited for Trials Fusion, the console companion to this game that’s coming out soon (both made by Finnish developer RedLynx). 

Wind-up Knight 2

I’m not usually into action games that use on-screen buttons, but I still had fun playing the first Wind-up Knight, and the sequel that just came out pretty much feels the same, although it looks even better — it’s a really nice-looking game, quite slick. It’s a free-to-download game, but it acts as shareware, as you only have access to the first 8 levels, and need to unlock the rest. They are trying to encourage you to buy right away by letting you buy the game for $4 if you do it within 30 minutes, instead of the regular $9. I might have been tempted, but since I had not points in my iTunes account (I buy point cards at the combini) I lost out on that deal, and I don’t feel like paying $9 for this. Oh well. Worth downloading to check out in any case, to try out those early levels. I played on iPad, but I imagine the controls would work better on iPhone, because the buttons are a bit spread out when on the big screen. 

Silicon Valley

Watched the first episode of Mike Judge’s new series — this parody of the tech world — and it’s pretty spot on. Not only is it it funny — not in the ha-ha sense, but more in how it really highlights the ridiculousness of that world — it’s incredibly realistic as well, including what they came up as the basis for the series (the tech that forms the main character’s startup could happen, and it would be incredibly valuable). Looking forward to the rest of the season.

Inside Amy Schumer

The first season of Inside Amy Schumer was one of the funniest things on TV, and so far — 2 episodes in — the second season is just as good if not even funnier. So glad that this show exists, it’s just so damn funny.

Mercenary Kings

I’m pretty sure I don’t like this game. I thought I’d really like it, since it looked like a cross between Metal Slug and Contra, with a more modern design sensibility (and it’s a free PS+ download on PS4), but so far I’m just not really having much fun playing it. The thing that is frustrating me the most is that every mission has a timer — something I’m generally not a huge fan of in games — and since the levels are quite complex, there’s a lot of pressure in trying to finish before the end (so far my missions tend to be find/kill 8 of a type of character). I wouldn’t mind exploring these levels if it was done on my own time — I do love Metroidvania-type games — but with the pressure of the timer, I just feel frustrated trying to access a map that isn’t particularly detailed, and then moving around in rather large levels. They’re also using a Gears of War-type reload mechanic which, in a game like Gears of War is fine since you’re doing it after firing through a rather large clip of ammo, but doing it here every time I shoot 6 bullets is a huge pain in the ass. It could be just me playing this wrong, but I’m not really looking to play much more of it.

Monument Valley

As everyone has been saying since its release last week, this game is indeed a thing of wonder. The visual aesthetics alone make it a must-buy, but the sounds also add a lot to the good feels you get while playing it. The game so far isn’t particularly challenging — I’ve only played about half I think — but for me it’s really all about enjoying the beautiful visuals, and moving around in the Escher-like environments. Can’t recommend this enough.

Harmony of Despair

I remember when this first came out a few years ago, and that I wasn’t too excited about it. I eventually picked it up during a sale, and even then, it took a while before I finally really played it with a friend over, and that’s when this game truly shines. Last night I played some more with a friend over, and was reminded of how much fun this game can be. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night lately on my Vita, and this basically offers up the same graphics and gameplay, but in a multiplayer context. Sure, sometimes it can be slightly frustrating when you’re lost in the giant level and aren’t sure where to go next, but you still have fun zooming in and out, trying to figure out a way to get to the final boss. 

Nintendo Land

I finally got to play some multiplayer Nintendo Land last night, and it was an absolute blast. Before that I had tried a few of the solo games, and although they were fine, it wasn’t really the kind of thing I’d go back to. But having a bunch of friends over and playing through stuff like the Luigi’s Mansion or Animal Crossing inspired games were just so damn fun. But man, there were some frustrating — and downright ridiculous — things to deal with. First off is that for some reason, Nintendo Land refuses to let you use a pro controller for any of the games — I had the Wii U controller and two Wiimotes, and a friend brought over his pro controller. It makes no sense. Also, when you play most of these games, you are using the Wiimotes sideways (as NES-style controllers), but for some reason, only on the screen where you select your avatars, you have to hold them like a remote to make the selection (not by pointing, but just to use the digital pad to make the selection). Sure, it’s small stuff, but it really doesn’t make sense. I will say that the aesthetics are incredibly colorful, and it’s simply a beautiful game to play, even compared to stuff you see on the PS4. It’s also a nice touch that you see video of the face of the person who is using the Wii U controller on the TV screen on some of the games. I look forward to playing more of this next time I have friends over.

Vice

I’m a big fan of the HBO incarnation of Vice, and with a second season having recently started, I’m again enjoying watching reports on stuff that, well, you just don’t usually see covered by regular news outlets. And I say enjoy, but it’s more constant outrage, like with the report on slavery in Pakistan from the second episode. Makes me so angry, but I am thankful that they are covering this sort of stuff.

The Desolation of Smaug

Despite the fact that I love the original LOTR trilogy to death — and have watched the extended editions multiple times — I’ve had trouble getting excited for The Hobbit trilogy. I’m pretty sure it’s the tone I don’t like, due to the overly jolly band of dwarves that form the focus of the films. It took me a while before I finally watched the first one, and although as expected the opening moments were not fun for me, the second half became something much more exciting to watch. I will say that I liked The Desolation of Smaug quite a bit more, even though, again, it doesn’t match any of the films from the LOTR trilogy. But the sequence in the river with Legolas jumping everywhere and shooting arrows is definitely one of the best actions scenes in all of the films.