Browsing the Backlog

I’ve been meaning to start this for a long time but kept tripping up over the idea that this should be a blog. Those things take upkeep though, you know? I would want it to look pretty, make it easy to find things, and have standards for my writing. A forum thread? Not feeling bad about tossing standards in the bin. My inspiration is Lawnch’s 120 Games, 1 Goal - Pile of Shame: 0 thread. They had goals and rules. I have none. I have an ever growing backlog of games that I desire to see but also want an outlet to note my thoughts and stories of my experiences. Because I’m a product of content culture or WHATEVER I can’t write these down in a Google Doc that will exist for own knowledge.

This thread I’m going to attempt to play the games I’ve amassed over my number of years on the online. I’m not going to beat every game I play, and with some that’s impossible, but I’m going to play through them until I reach an end. Maybe I’ve come to the conclusion 1/4 of the way through “This isn’t for me in any way shape or form” or maybe I play to the credits…plus a little more. WHO KNOWS?! I don’t think this will motivate me to hop into more games but will give me a more focused means to gathering my thoughts on those dang games.

First post will be Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories

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BTB #1 - Keycard to my Kingdom Hearts
I started Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories on the PS3 as part of the HD 1.5 Remix but only got through Traverse Town. I still have a PS3 technically but is now in storage. This past weekend I saw the 1.5 x 2.5 pack for PS4 on sale and I happened to have some gift cards to purchase it. With Kingdom Hearts 3 fully out there I’m probably not going to get through this whole dang series before KH3 gets spoiled for me entirely. That won’t stop me from trying.

Feels like deck building games are making a comeback. Data set this is based on includes Slay the Spire, Meteorfall, and nothing else. All you need to build a narrative. That’s the gimmick for this one, the card battle system. I haven’t figured out if there is much too it since I’m only an hour in. There are certain moments where cards are played but I’m not entirely sure what happened. My character didn’t do anything…but cards were removed from my hand. Perplexing. Despite that, I’ve enjoyed the task of crafting my deck. I imagine the variety of cards will expand quite a bit so I can tailor to my playstyle. Right now I’m working off a very limited pool but there still feels like some form of choice involved. Even if when I go into combat I’m not exactly sure it matters what I’m playing or when I’m playing it.

Piecing together my journey through Traverse Town was good stuff. Instead of a fully designed world, you use a card/key to open doors that bring you to a small block of a map. I’m unsure if the design is random or completely based on the card. I didn’t stick around long enough to play multiple of the same card to see what the result was. All I know is that this approach from a 2004 game feels UNIQUE 15 years later. So used to these fully realized worlds, that having a notable franchise with a fresh, stitched together experience makes my heart full.

I know there isn’t much for me to talk about yet but excited to hop back to see where they take me next.

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BTB #2 - Games to Break Up The Flow

Every year I host a top 100 wrestlers of the year poll called the WDKW100. It is a fun project involving some of my favorite things: spreadsheets, critical analysis, and the fine sport of professional wrestling. While I sort of front the whole thing, I have tremendous partners that help with the calculations and giving the project a little more life. My role is the sorter and presenter of information. It is the one constant in my calendar where I fully engulfed myself into something. It is also a lot of work and frankly takes a toll on me mentally during the time it runs. That’s where games came in this past weekend.

I’ve dove back into Hollow Knight after spending months away. I ran into a rut that has led to many breaks in the Souls games; a boss that I couldn’t beat. A blobby magician type being. It probably isn’t the ideal “escape” game but I needed to get outside the number crunching that was going on in my head. Even if I couldn’t beat the boss, surely there had to be other nooks and crannies to explore. That’s the point right? Well, 15 minutes in the boss was done and I felt like the world opened up while becoming more laborious than ever. Still trying to figure out if I’m missing something. I don’t mind the backtracking, there tends to be paths I either couldn’t explore before or never thought about. My last go around, months prior, was more about mainlining than anything. We were getting into GOTY season and I badly wanted to be able to enjoy that conversation. Seems like that moment his passed and I have no motivation to speed things up. But there has to be a faster way to get from Point A to Point B. Or maybe that is just how it is. Which is fine. Just…just takes me out of my rhythm a bit.

The other game I dabbling with this weekend was PolyBridge. I’ve 100% played a variation of this game in my middle school Tech class. I was bad then and I’m bad now but I will not be defeated by the necessary angels of the truss bridge. The quick sessions I’ve put in have let me dig into a problem that needs solving without focusing at all on the other problem I need solving.

Two different games accomplishing the same task; pull my attention towards literally anything other than the task at hand. Feels like I’m in a dumb grade school video but clearing your head? Yeah, it works*. Try it sometime.

Summary

*for super inconsequential things

BTB #3 - Banner Saga Continues

Okay, I’ve been doing the opposite of what I’ve been wanting to do. I’ve simply been bouncing around from game to game, getting a taste but never experiencing anything. Which, you know, ain’t always bad. Not sure I’ve had the mental capacity losing myself in a game. Ever since finishing the first, I knew that when I dipped my toe into Banner Saga 2, there was a good chance it wasn’t going to let go. I didn’t finish the first too long ago (really should start a backloggery) and I was SHOCKED how much I enjoyed it. I suck at strategy games but frankly, the game wasn’t a robust strategy game. It was a great mish-mash of a visual novel, Oregon Trail, and light strategy battles. With someone who gets bored quickly or simply can’t focus, this series feels designed to weave you in and out of modes of operation.

Only put in an hour into BS2 but dang, it gets what I came for. I’ve watched Game of Thrones but what if I could have that but with more FANTASY! Picking up with the levels and equipment from last game, I am right back at the helm of this crew of warriors I spent a little over a dozen hours previously. There are also some new players bother in my party and starring across from me in dialogue.

There is also a challenge mode thing that I think I like? I never picked up most of the strategies in the first game and always tried forcing my way through. I understood how things worked but didn’t know how to work the things, you know? Seems like a smart choice that I’m glad is there for me to stink at.

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BTB #4 - Dealing With Disease Through Mobile Gaming

WARNING: This entry will likely be a little TMI (too much information) for some so feel free to tune out.

Alright, everyone here that wants to be here? Cool, so, I have Crohns Disease. For me, it isn’t anything truly major. I’ve figured out a diet that I enjoy without causing my guts to become INFLAMED. Unfortunately, I’m still in the bathroom more often than the average bear, just not as often and as painful as it could be. It stinks but you got to make the most of a bad situation I suppose. I am already a Twitter power user so that checks off two boxes with one swipe, time killing and brain worms.

At some point though I realized that Twitter wasn’t going to occupy my me for this entire duration which is why I’ve started to dabble in more iOS games. Games that can occupy me in short bursts but also give me something to sink into for my longer stays on the throne. The first one I started truly getting into was Meteorfall: Journey which I think is a lovely card game that people should play. My new iOS crush is holedown. For most people this is probably easier without referencing the game Ballz but my brain has decided that I need to take the scenic route to get where I want to go.

Ballz is a game that falls somewhere between Breakout and Miniclips Pool. You have a number of balls and you try and shoot them up at blocks to destroy them. Each block has a number which is the number of times they need to be hit to be removed from the screen. There are collectible balls on the screen so that you are shooting more balls. All balls fire from the same shot but say you have 20 balls and the block you are aiming at is a 10, 10 of your balls will hit it and then the remaining 10 will continue on that path with that block no longer obstructing it. After each shot, the screen moves down one block size with new blocks appearing at the top of the screen. It is an arcade type game so there isn’t a goal but rather how many times you can shoot before a block(s) reaches the bottom of the screen.

Now, holedown is that but flipped and gamier. You shoot down instead of up and you are shooting at “blocks” of all shapes and sizes. That’s not true, I’m being a lot, there are templates to the size of blocks so sizing is more Tetris-y. The blocks are either static or dynamic. Static blocks stand on their own and you must clear them from the board before you “crash” into them by them reaching the top of the screen. Dynamic blocks, on the other hand, can be removed by either getting them to 0 or removing the static block holding them up. There could be SEVERAL dynamic blocks on a static block. It might take some angeling to knock them out.

The “gamier” portion comes from the upgrade system and that there are definitive ends to the levels. You can upgrade the amount of balls you start with, the max balls you can hold, how many shots you can take, how many upgrade crystals you can hold, as well as a ticket to the next level. In theory you don’t need to beat a level to grab the ticket to the next level. At the end of each planet is a big ball with a BIG number that no longer crawls upwards. At this point it is less about your ability to position shots but rather how many balls you got and how many shots you have left in the tank. The whole loop GETS ME but that part? Wish they mixed it up a little. Give me a last block shaped like a T-Rex head. Something that isn’t just a ball. Something that prevents a different challenge than the one before.

holedown has one tasty loop. Yum yum yum. Thanks Martin Jonasson for taking a weird arcard game I liked into something that’s a little cutier and a little more involved. Also, thanks for occupying my time in the bathroom. You really rock for that.

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BTB #5 - Not Quite Reigning Supreme

As mentioned last time I’ve gotten into mobile gaming a good bit over the past little while. The most recent game I’ve decided to take the plunge on is Reigns, a game I have heard mostly glowing praise for. A game that has a nice angular look that gives me construction paper vibes. Definitely Cute.

The cuteness quickly falls to the backdrop as the run based game of plate spinning commences. I’m not entirely opposed to games based on balancing some bars but if you aren’t in love with the writing (me, that’s me, not in love) then you don’t have a lot going on. There are four bars you balance: Church, People, Military, Money. I may not have such a negative reaction to this game if it wasn’t for that military one. After sinking about an hour into this game I have yet to understand its triggers. If you aren’t aware of the concept of the game, it is a run-based game where you play the role of a king and then using a Swipe Left-Swipe Right mechanic you make choices. Little dots appear above any bar that will be affected by that specific choice BUT there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason for your military bar going up or down. If you go to war it could go up or down, if you pull out of war it could go up or down, I can’t figure out what appeals to the army and what makes them MAD. I’m sure I could look up the answer but when the other bars are so much easier to understand, having one that seems random doesn’t make me want to dig. The game cost $3. Enough of an investment where I will certainly try to understand but I’m not pulling up Gamefaqs to put the pieces together.

Usually, I like roguelike-like games but the hook isn’t for me. I wish I thought the game was funnier or that I felt compelled to complete tasks that transpired across runs.

In other news, I tried out Assassin’s Creed Origins having probably put a total of 2 hours into the series prior to this because I need a good “podcast game” but instead of listening to podcasts it is just me shutting my brain almost entirely off while engaging with a checklist open world game. Think this could be the one.

BTB #6 - Yeah It’s Dauntless

I’m real bad at playing my backlog but when a F2P Monster Hunter clone walks into your life who am I to deny it? With little hesitation I can say I’ve fallen head over heels. It removes so much of the weight of Monster Hunter while maintaining the nugget; gearing up and defeating monsters.

Okay, yeah, now I’m going to ramble.

I’m still early on (I think?), roughly level 21 and have officially hit a behemoth who is regularly wrecking my stuff, Riftstalker. Yet, it feels good? Wish I could say I have breezed through every fight with next to no challenge but MAN this game occasionally gives me fits in a very satisfying manner. First behemoth that beat the snot out of me was Embermane. Tiger like being that darts around the map way too fast for my liking. There is a lesser version in the intro that isn’t too bad but once I started the normal version, he moved a lot more, packed a bigger punch, and had new abilities like spewing fire that were more annoying than harmful. The first time I faced him my team wasn’t doing half bad, we had him retreat even though we all fell a time or two to pull that off. The issue was that once we engaged again…the DANGER meter filled. I’m not exactly sure what causes it to fill, I’m assuming a mix of time and times downed. I didn’t understand the effects until folks starting going down…and I couldn’t revive them. Our numbers kept going down. Eventually, I was left standing. I hung around for a few minutes, thinking if I stuck around for a bit longer, Embermane had to be near then end of its HP. I mistakenly thought I stood a chance until I missed a hammer shotgun blast. WIPED!

Despite being taken off the face of the earth, knowing that this paired down game could still provide this level of challenge made me ECSTATIC! I don’t want every fight to be a cakewalk, quite the opposite. Give me that friction. I eventually came back and started knocking the lad on their butt as other folks came in to hit the staggered beast. I’m always doing random groups and sometimes you get the right group and it all clicks without anyone saying a word. I also turn off any chat function so it has to work that way or we’ll die.

Dauntless gets what makes Monster Hunter click and distills it. I can hop in for literally 15 minutes, do a Pursuit or Patrol, upgrade some gear, log off. It fits in perfectly into my morning routine. Yes, there is a numbing factor where I get satisfaction of numbers going up but I don’t care. It works. It is easy to get in and out which is the opposite of my MHW experience. Where I’m at now in life, that’s IMPORTANT.

Here is to hoping that the game continues to find success, grow, and do new and interesting things.