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What I’ve Been Playing Recently

I wonder if those titles should be more distinct or if it even matters. Anyway, I “completed” one game this week. Actually I sort of “beat” two games, but I forget how I have counted the Fortnite Battle Passes. Let’s call it one for now. The Fortnite BP technically goes to Level 200.

F.I.S.T: Forged In Shadow Torch

Man, that acronym. Someone really wanted it to stand for FIST. This was one of the free games from Epic over the Holidays that they push every year. It looked interesting from the animal characters and Steampunkish design then I noticed it’s a Metroidvania title, which is probably my favorite game genre. So I decided to jump on playing it. You play as a sort of, grizzled ex soldier rabbit, armed with a giant robotic FIST from his old war days mech. The game play is pretty smooth and it’s definitely a Metroidvania style title.

My main gripe so far is the slight unevenness of the enemies. Most of the bosses I have encountered are super predictable and almost too easy. Dodge Dodge Dodge Strike. It’s a pretty regular pattern for all of them so far. One large biped mech was particularly easy to confuse because it didn’t move and you could just jump from it’s left to it’s right, meaning it would miss miss miss, then turn around, so you move again, and repeat. But the regular enemies, are often tougher than the bosses, and feel like they have just as much health. There is also this really annoying bit where you can stun them out of an attack animation, but not ALL attacks, and often you can’t stop your slightly sluggish attacking, until it’s too late to dodge away. And the enemies often have huge attack arcs. If that makes any sense.

It’s not awful, but it’s annoying, especially with packs of enemies. The game feels like you should be able to “juggle” the enemies, but you really can’t. It’s particularly bad with the samurai looking dudes and worse with the axe throwing shield guys. The game is still fun, but it feels like it could use a slight bit of tweaking to it’s regular enemies and maybe a slight beefing up on the actual bosses.

Fortnite

I finished the main part of the Chapter 4 Season 1 Battle Pass. Which means reaching level 100. The game is honestly, starting to feel like a chore. I’ll keep at it for now, but at this moment, I have no desire to continue to Season 2 unless things seem really good. There have been a LOT of complaints about the new weekly quest system. They expire now, instead of just stacking until the end of the season, and they are almost always incredibly grindy. Like, “you must do ONLY THIS all week” to complete the top tier. The map also was neat at first but it’s gotten really stale. It also hasn’t really changed at all. It felt like in Chapter 3 the map was constantly changing every week or so. The weapons pool also has not really changed.

Sky: Children of the Light

Now that the Season of Aurora has ended and I’m not worried about maximizing my Candles each week, I decided to just go for it at take a swing at The Eye of Eden, the end zone of this game. man, you want a game that is bipolar on its own game play. I kind of want to do a separate write up of Sky, so I won’t go into a ton of detail, but let’s just sat this. The base game play loop is about as non confrontational as it gets. You mostly just, fly around lighting candles and collecting wax balls and occasionally doing little spirit stories. The final zone, is literally an endurance until you die.

Your health is represented by these Winged Light bits that you collect, which strengthen your overall ability to fly and explore. I was up to I think 76 before entering Eden, which is pretty close to max on regular basic Winged Lights. The first zone is a slow climb up some cliffs through winds and rock storms. The second zone is stronger wings and bigger rocks, but now there are Krill dragons patrolling around. The third zone is where the action is, it loses the dragons, but instead there is a constant barrage of lava rocks splattering all over the zone that will basically one shot you destroying some of your Winged Light. You can hide behind some rocks, but for the most part, you have to run around the zone depositing your Winged lights into these little statues to save them. You give up your health, to save these other entities.

You do this, until you die.

And then you get reborn at zero. Though for each spirit saved you get some special candles to use to buy some more permanent Winged Lights. It’s not 1:1 though. I earned I think 13 Ascended Candles. I restarted the game at around 8 Winged Lights I think.

Klonoa: Door to Phantomile

I still jump around a bit on the Retroid Pocket but for now I have settled on playing the first Klonoa game on Playstation 1. I am not sure how far I am, maybe halfway? The game reminds me of the style of Donkey Kong Country, but not nearly as fast paced. It’s a neat little game, though I’m not entirely sure of the ins and outs of some of it. Like occasionally there are clock items to pick up, but from what I can tell, the game has no timer. I’m not too concerned, I am not trying to master this one.

What I’ve Been Playing Recently

# What I’ve Been Playing Recently

I like the idea of this sort of regular, generic post, but I don’t really want to give it a schedule, so I’m just going to throw em out whenever, for now, I think.  Considering this si the “first” one, it’s also not clear what “Recently” should mean in this context.  It’s my post, my blog, my rules, so I’m thinking, whatever I want to mention really.

Fortnite

Roughly a year ago, I decided I wanted to give Fortnite a go.  It’s been popular for years, and i was looking for something relatively mindless to play as a filler game to fill the void left by Overwatch.  So I decided to try Fortnite.  I had no idea what I was doing, though I managed to win my first match, which felt really cool, until (much later) I learned that all the matches for the first ten levels or so are against Bots.  It was Christmas season, so I got a few free cosmetic items, and I even enjoyed it enough to buy a few skins.  i also opted to go for the Battle Pass, which I completed to level 200.

I’ve taken a few breaks, but I’m still playing a year later now.  Chapter 4 just started, which means a fresh new map to play on.  i am pretty sure the new map is a lot smaller than the last one.  Honestly, in general, it feels like Epic really wanted to try to break people out of the “Run around and hide” all match mindset.  Everything is righter and faster and you’re forced into more encounters.  I’m not sure I like it honestly.  I usually moved around the map a lot, but I also generally would avoid conflicts.  I’ve actually been playing a lot of Bot Matches just so the games are more chill and less stressful.

Something that’s a bit annoying, I actually kind of prefer playing random, NON Battle Royale maps and modes.  I played a TON of their Among Us Clone, in the Imposters Mode.  Though that got old because groups, completely break that mode.  Groups will just tattle on who the Imposter is to their friends.  I also do a lot of “Death-run” Obstacle course maps, though there are a lot of these that feel really uninspired these days.  Probably my favorite are the Musical Soundwave Series events.

Sky Children of the Light

This one is a super chill “Relaxing” movile game, though it recently came to Switch and Playstation.  It’s made by the same folks who made Journey and definitely FEELS a lot like Journey.  You float around this world collecting candle wax and meeting people and doing little Spirit Quests.  There is only one zone in the entire game where you can be harmed, outside of The End zone.  I have not been able to bring myself to attempt The End yet.  I hear it’s really hard, plus you lose everything, by default, and start over, after completing the game.

Currently they are having an event themed around the singer Aurora, which was part of why I started playing the game in the first place.

Retroid Pocket

I want to do a proper write up on my Retroid eventually, but I’ve been playing old games on this as well.  Nothing in particular yet, I’m still kind of in the “Mess around and see what it can do” phase.  Mostly I’ve been playing Genesis and PlayStation Titles, with a few PC Engine games thrown in.  I am trying REALLY hard not to fall into my usual Emulation Trap of just playing Zelda and Mario…. again… for the ten thousandth time.

Overwatch 2

File this one under what I’m NOT Playing.  I got so tired of Overwatch and it’s unbalanced mess.  I quit a year or so ago and every attempt to come back failed within days or hours of every reinstall.  I came back more hardcore for the end of Overwatch 1, hopeful that Overwatch 2 would be a fresh, new beginning.  I even bought the Battle Pass.  Oh boy I was disappointed.  I expected nothing and it was worse.  Every single match, almost without fail, is a complete steamroll win or loss, and neither is fun.  Experience is a slow pain int he ass as well, I gave up on the Battle Pass around level 50 I think.  I was not having fun and I didn’t want to grind out 30 more levels.  I don’t even care about winning, I just want the game to feel enjoyable  I never win in Fortnite and I always enjoy playing.  Overwatch should be like that.  

It should be fun!

Fortnite Fracture Event, Quite Disappointing

Every so often, Fortnite has these big “Event” moments in it’s story line. They are essentially just an excuse to destroy the island and revamp it, at least from a game play perspective. These often happen at the end of the Chapter, but sometimes also between Seasons. (The game is Chapters, subdivided into Seasons). For the end of Chapter 3, Fortnite had an event called Fracture. Compared to the Collision Event for Chapter 3, Season 2, this event felt incredibly lack luster.

The way the events work, a half hour or so before the start time, it becomes the only game mode you can queue for, at which point, you get dropped into a holding pattern lobby with 3 other players. For Collision, this was the cockpit of the giant Voltron Like Mech, for Fracture, you just get stuck on a small island floating in space.

Waiting for the event to begin watching the TV countdown

There wasn’t much to do on the island besides run around and emote. There were no weapons and it wasn’t particularly large. The only thing really there was a TV with a countdown. Slightly disappointing, I believe due to the slight slop of the island itself, it was difficult to use the “Emote Together” emotes where two players can interact. Eventually the count down ended and the TV lit up bright and the event itself began. There was a brief little movie bit where the Herald attacks the Reality Tree before the entire island is overrun by the Chrome that has been slowly consuming everything all season. After-which it explodes. Or I suppose, more accurately, it Fractures.

Fortnite Fracture Title

After the fracture, you find yourself simply floating in space alone. Before The Paradigm starts narrating about the Zero Point reassembling the world…. or something. Eventually you are roped in and pulled to a small floating island in space, along with your squad and some other people, maybe 50 or so players total, at least I assume they were all other players as well, it wasn’t real clear.

At this point, the actual game play starts. And it’s… ok, at first, but lasts for like, 40 minutes, and is extremely repetitive, and not very clear on what needs done exactly.

Basically, you are collecting these little zero point Orbs. Some are just laying around the island, others are gotten through doing various mini quests and tasks. There is no shooting, or Battle Royale, or even any weapons, you just, run around randomly, doing random shit. Some of these things include, doing “bounties” of throwing a snowball at a player, or finding hidden props hidden around the island, or apparently fishing, though no one seemed to have figured that one out, or spotting things floating in space, using a telescope. These were the easy ones. Others, like assembling the snowman, or throwing a chicken into the Zero point (WHICH SOUNDS STUPID EASY) were not clear on the goal. I probably tossed 20 chickens into the Zero Point and didn’t once get credit for that one.

Fortnite Fracture, The Zero Point

Every 5 minutes or so, The Paradigm would talk about the Zero Point reacting and it would pull another piece of chuck from space and more activities would unlock. More of… the same activities. Just in a new little chuck of island. It honestly wasn’t clear if the activities of the players were causing this, or if it was just on a timer. There was no meter or anything that players were working to fill by collecting Zero Point orbs, which would have at least helped a bit with how pointless it all felt.

Eventually, the thing just unceremoniously ends, The Paradigm says she is going to sacrifice herself to save the island and then the island gets reformed a new as a bunch of promo teasers of locations and characters for next season come flying in to form the new island.

The whole event was kind of dull, and judging from other reactions I have seen online, I am not alone in this thought. Here is hoping the next season is better, but I’m already thinking I may take another break like I did for Chapter 3 Season 3. Doomguy is probably in the next Season Pass, which is kind of cool, but I’m not sure if I really want him that bad. I would be a new island at least to mix things up a bit.

Final Shot as the game went offline until tomorrow.

Review – The Binding of Isaac (PC)

So, the makers of Super Meat Boy, Team Meat, apparently have an old school Nintendo Fetish of the worst kind.  First you have Super Meat Boy, which has vague connotations of Super Mario Brothers.  Though the reality is the name is all it really has in common with Super Mario Brothers, that and being a side scrolling platform game.  The Binding of Isaac is sort of like this, only with The Legend of Zelda.  It sort of has the same cadence and style in name and shares a lot of game play style.

The reality is, other than the basic interface design, The Binding of Isaac shares very little with The Legend of Zelda.  The presentation is similar but the game itself is a rogue-like.   This game’s primary gimmick, and the source of it’s possible lone flaw, is it’s randomness.  It can be extremely cruel at times.  The ability to complete the higher levels tends to be closely associated with the items and upgrades you find.  These upgrades tend to be pretty random and are also often dependent on if you have enough coins to buy them.  This can lead to some rounds where you manage to become an overpowered juggernaut and others where you’re essentially the same guy on Level 3 as you started out.

Assuming you can even make it to level 3 without upgrades.  There is also the problem of keeping yourself alive in this random mess.  Some rounds, enemies will almost always drop hearts and coins, others you’ll get nothing.  There does seem to be some level of algorithm in place to keep things fair, it just could use a bit of tweaking.  The game does do a pretty good job of keeping the earlier enemies easier and the later enemies more difficult.

It also is surprisingly not as frustrating as it seems like it should be.  This was a trait shared by Super Meat Boy.  It also becomes easier as you become accustomed to how the enemies act and move.  Now, granted it does start to shove curveballs at you like nobody’s business later in the game, like having the laser blasting aliens with small corridors to navigate, and swarms of flying spitting creatures in a room full or rocks.

Despite the frustration, the gameplay is pretty solid, and decent.

The real likely turn off to some people is the game’s somewhat grotesque nature and it’s somewhat mocking of religion gameplay.  The Binding of Isaac is a story from the Bible where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.  The basic plot of the story is that Isaac’s mother is told by a mysterious voice that her son has become corrupted and he must be taught humility, or something along those lines.  There are numerous references to biblical elements.  This is mixed in with what is essentially a horror house of bloody enemies often based on bodily organs.  Often enemies spew blood pellets or drop piles of shit on the floor.  It’s generally something that people who have a more sensitive disposition will probably find offensive.

This game has one final really great point going for it, it’s cheap.  It’s almost like some sort of experiment in marketing but the game is only $5, which is hard to pass up.  It’s frustrating as hell but it’s fun enough that it’ll keep you coming back, assuming you’re not turned off by the slightly disturbing imagery involved.

The Binding of Isaac is available on Steam here.

Pokemon Go Go-tcha Band

So, I should preface a bit by saying, I am a very casual level player of Pokemon Go.  I mean maybe I am overestimating the level of most players, but I often see people talking about burning through hundreds of Pokemon and eggs and stardust to maximize this or that.  There are gyms an raids that I barely ever participate in.  My interest in Pokemon Go extends mostly to “It’s Pokemon” because it’s not really Pokemon.  It’s more, incentivized walking.  Which is also why I care about Pokemon Go, at all.  Primarily I “play” at lunch, I eat, I go walk a loop downtown outside my office.  What I really wanted to help with this, was a way to spin Pokestops and catch Pokemon, without having to carry my phone in my hand and look at my phone constantly.

Enter the Pokemon Go Plus, and in my case, the Pokemon Go-tcha band.  I had been looking at getting a PoGo+ for a while, but I had heard they were kind of flaky, and you still had to press a button to actually perform an action (catching or spinning).  Then I found the 3rd party Go-tcha band, which is identical in function to the Plus, except it auto spins and auto catches.  The Go-tcha also has an internal rechargeable batter, the PoGo+ has a replaceable battery.  After using the band for a few months, it’s not perfect, but the short of it is, it work for my needs.  It does what it proposes and works pretty well.

I have a few little gripes and there are some oddities to it, which I want to get into a bit and is the whole point of writing this, but I am 99% sure that these are all limitations put in place, intentionally or not, in Pokemon Go itself.

So a bit of an overview of what exactly the Go-tcha does, a lot of this applies to the PoGo+ as well.  Depending on the settings in the app itself and on the band, it will automatically scan the area and spin Pokestops or catch Pokemon.  It’s not an end all to auto-playing PoGo however.  The catching will throw one regular Pokeball.  That’s it.  If it catches, you get the Pokemon, if it doesn’t the Pokemon flees.  It doesn’t throw Great or Ultra balls.  This can be a little frustrating at times, I’ve been at a point where I had 100 Great and Ultra balls, but zero regular Pokeballs, which means the band does nothing.  This is a limitation of how Pokemon Go works however, the regular PoGo+ works the same way, except you have to click the button to do the throw.

The Go-tcha also has some options that can be toggled, by tapping the button, to cycle through, and holding it to toggle.  I am not sure the regular PoGo+ has these options.  The toggle-able options in order, all on/off, are Spin Pokestops, Catch Pokemon, Catch Unique Pokemon, Vibration, and Bluetooth.  You can conserve Pokeballs by either disabling the catching, or setting it to catch only Pokemon that you don’t already have.  In my testing, and this may be wrong, but it’s based on what I’ve seen, this has some limitations.  The Pokemon Go app itself seems to prioritize it’s actions, it will search for and target Pokemon then target Pokestops.  As far as I can tell, you must disable Pokemon scanning int he settings of the app itself if you want to only spin Pokestops.  I find I do maybe one walk a week with spinning only to replenish my stock of Pokeballs.  Depending on the density, it’s pretty easy to pull in 50 Pokeballs or so with 20-30 minutes of walking.

Now, like I said, turning off Pokemon scanning seems to be required, but only because of what seems to be a limitation of Pokemon Go itself.  Basically, what I have seen happen, is that the app will target the first Pokemon it sees, then stick to it, until you try to catch it with the band.  This also affects catching unique Pokemon for the same reason.  If you have the band itself set to only throw at unique Pokemon, it may catch on a Pidgey you have, while you walk past a Dratini or something that you don’t have.  Because it will get stuck on the Pidgey waiting for the band to do something.  The best use cases for the band, are to either turn off Pokemon scanning in Pokemon Go and only spin stops, or keep everything on full boar, and let it go to town.

It does keep up well in full on mode.  It targets and catches the Pokemon fast enough that it should also catch and spin Pokestops.  I also have found it works even when driving at a reasonable speed (40mph or less), often catching Pokemon that don’t even show up on the map.  Don’t play PoGo while driving kids, but if you’ve just got a Go-tcha laying in the seat next to your phone, you aren’t exactly interacting with anything.  In my experience though, the screen still has to be on, which seems to be another annoying limitation of Pokemon Go itself.  If the screen is off, it doesn’t seem to update your location, you can watch your character run to catch up once you turn the screen back on.  So when using the band you can shove your phone in your pocket, but it still has to be on, so it’s easy to bump the screen by mistake and screw things up.

There also isn’t really enough notification when you’re item bag or Pokemon bag is full.  The app simply stops catching or spinning when this happens.  It’s fairly easy to fill up as well, I find I am constantly tossing out berries.  You can of course remedy this by buying more bag space.  Once again, more of a limitation of the game than anything.  I have also had some connectivity issues which are usually resolved by resetting the app or phone, or deleting and repairing the device.  This is also a known issue with the official Pokemon Go Plus band, and it not unique to the Go-tcha.

The Go-tcha band itself has a few quirks.  It has no on/off function that I can find.  So it’s always on.  You recharge it by sticking it in a little USB cradle.  The Go-tcha itself is maybe a centimeter by a centimeter by 2 centimeters, it reminds me a lot of my old Fitbit flex.  There are no ports on it, just two little contacts for charging.  It has one touch sensitive area on one end of the display.  There are little animations that play on it as it does things.  You can buy third party bands, which is good for two reasons.  One, the band that comes with it is this speckled red white and black thing that’s ugly as hell.  Two, the band that comes with it is effectively child sized, it doesn’t fit at all around my wrist.  I just carry it in my pocket.  A word of warning on this, I have found that having other things in your pocket (like pocket change) can accidentally change the settings on the unit.  It’s best to keep it in the band, even if you aren’t wearing it because frankly, it’s easy to loose, it’s so small.

Real quick before wrapping up, I wanted to run through a bit of other little thing it does and does not do.  It will spin Gyms, but it does not battle in gyms or raids in any way.  If the bag fills up, it won’t keep spinning stops, and there isn’t any filter for say, “only keep rare items and Pokeballs”.  It only throws once at any given Pokemon, no matter how rare, and afterwards that Pokemon is gone.  So if you want a particular Pokemon, you need to play normally and manually throw balls.  Pokemon caught with the band do count towards Field Research,  if it says “Catch 3 Water Pokemon”, it doesn’t matter if you caught them with the band or manually.  Spinning stops also counts towards research.  Using the band still lets you hatch eggs, though you don’t get a notification that it’s happening.

So wrapping this up, with a little TL;DR, the band works as expected, and frankly, if you want to be able to walk and play PoGo distraction free, it’s worth picking up.  I had my doubts going in but after hem-hawing about it for months, I just bit the bullet.  I wouldn’t pay much mark up on it though, I have seen the PoGo+ for I think $30-$35 and the Gotcha for $40-$45, but both are often marked up a lot more, the prices already feel like they are pushing it for the value depending on how casual you are about playing the game.  I kind of wish it included a little more incentive like maybe the one throw Pokeballs didn’t count towards your owned balls or something.