Saturday, January 31, 2015

Let's Play Saints Row II: Part VIII

Since Maero is busy with his ho, he won't mind if I go back to his other hideout.

It has a bit of a vermin problem, but once I take care of that, it will make an excellent addition to my growing empire.

I'm contacted by the doctor who treated me after the graffiti incident.  The women in this town really need someone to stand up for them.

All she ever wanted in the world was the chance to be the greatest doctor, and to do that, she needs more patients.  Specifically, one patient...


and over...

and over...

Pierce calls and says he has everything ready to start the campaign against the Ronin gang.

He has a brilliant plan which will minimize risk and loss of life.

Johnny proposes an alternative.

It may or may not involve blowing a hole through everyone in the casino.  (Not pictured:  blowing a hole through everyone in the casino.)

I receive word from a member of my newly-commissioned Feminazi Spy Force deep within Ronin headquarters.  The Ronin leader is not yet impressed enough with our assault to think of the Saints as a threat.

But we have made a dent.  We have made a dent!

I buy some bling to celebrate our victory.

Year 2014 Lists: Part II, Games

Games Played This Year (In No Particular Order)

Warning: Video games may occur.  Proceed at your own risk.  Reprinted from Facebook where this is a yearly feature.

1. Kami. This is a puzzle game. You are presented with a flat plane colored with 2-6 colors. You can recolor the different areas, and if a bordering area has the same color, the areas will merge. Attempt to make the entire plane one color in a minimum of moves. This game has peaceful music and a pleasing stop-motion papercraft animation style. I played a puzzle every once in a while throughout the year, and I do recommend it.

2. The Dream Machine. Another game animated with stop-motion. This one is a point-and-click adventure that is not quite finished, but most of the game has been released. Something is not quite right about your apartment. It may have something to do with the giant semi-organic machine growing in the basement. The game manages a creepy horror atmosphere despite the adventure game pacing.

3. Cinders. You are Cinderella, and you must Choose Your Adventure! This game has ridiculously pretty characters and a branching storyline that doesn't take too long to complete. Cinderella, the step-family, and even the love interest, all have a bit more depth in this version of the tale, and it is nice to see them developed a bit by the story. Unusually for a visual novel, it Does Not Have Manga Art.

4. Stick it to The Man. You are some guy who gets mixed up with The Men in Black and Alien Escapees and such and ends up with psychic powers in the form of an invisible arm growing out of your head. Pick up items and smack them elsewhere or smack them into the thoughts of other people (the arm makes a nice SMACK sound when used). Evade The Man! at all costs. Cute, fun, and short.

5. Among the Sleep. You are a baby, and this is a horror game. As a toddler, you can crawl fairly well, but other than that, your movement is limited. Evade the scary thing(s) mostly by hiding in creepy environments that somehow seem to be in your closet. Your character has a light-up teddy bear he can squeeze if things get too intense (but be warned that the monster(s) can also see the light). The psychological symbolism is a touch heavy-handed, but this game has a good level of creepy for me. It is intense without silly jump scares.

6. The Shivah. This is a very short point-and-click adventure. You play a mean, cynical rabbi who has been accused of murder. Find someone else for the police to suspect by talking, searching the internet, and doing some amateur hacking. The characters are pretty dark and hard-boiled here, but the game also enjoys making fun of itself. (Wait until you see the combat system.) It has a lot of clever ideas, but the voice-acting is only mediocre, and the entire game is really too short, making for a rushed character arc.

7. Ben There Dan That and Time Gentlemen, Please! This game really deserves a wider audience. A point and click that is just brimming with British humor, it probably just didn't get a lot of press. Plus, there is the matter of its terrible programmer art... But in this case, it works. The characters are fourth-wall breaking no-accounts who constantly mock the game. I found it very entertaining.

8. Cook, Serve, Delicious! This game requires you to, with almost inhuman speed, prepare meals for five simultaneous customers as you run a restaurant. "Prepare meals" here means tap the right buttons in the right order and with the right timing. It's sort of a frantic cooking arcade game with a moderate amount of strategy as you can change your menu every day, choose which orders to take first, etc. Lots of fun if taken in small doses.

9. Brothers, A Tale of Two Sons. This is either a game for two players or one player using two hands. You control a pair of brothers on a quest to find a medicine for their dying father. The game starts in their hut, then their tiny village, and then out into the increasingly eerie and huge world. This is an amazing game with innovative story-telling methods, but unfortunately, it does seem to be a bit buggy, but the first time I played it, I had no trouble, and maybe you won't either. (One other note. If you play this game with your little brother, and he is playing the little brother character, and he keeps getting the little brother killed, this can be TOUGH for the older sister to take. No killing my brother!)

10. Papo y Yo. Best Game of the Year for me. An adventure game set in a Brazilian town with colorful mural art painted by real artists, a town which can be moved around and manipulated in an Inception-like wa, this game walks you through what it is like to be the child of an alcoholic as you play a little boy in a similar situation. Very touching.

11. Walking Dead II and A Wolf Among Us. Telltale continued releasing holonovel-like games this year. They are very impressive, and I would love them were they not so deeply depressing that I can't play through them. These games are GRIM (add an extra m for a Funny Pun in the case of the second game), albeit Very Good. I have high hopes for the new comedy games in this style Telltale is making for the next year.  Update:  A Wolf Among Us is almost comically grim.  It makes me want to scream, "Move out of New York City, you idiots.  This would solve all your problems!"  That said, it is a gorgeous game with Dramatic Lighting and a Hero you can customize to be anything from Hopelessly Mean to Unintentionally Mean.  It is Noir, Noir, Noir, and it is great.  And Tales from the Borderlands is hysterical.  More on that next year.

12. Octodad, the Dadliest Catch. This game made me laugh. You play an octopus who is somehow the father in a 1950s-sitcom-style nuclear family. Much like Chicken Boo, Octodad keeps his true nature hidden. Your job while playing the game is not to reveal the secret by tripping over or suctioning onto too many of the many, many things on the floor. Making this task more difficult are the controls, a separate set for each limb (you have four because you are a man and not an octopus who has braided his tentacles together to form a grotesque mockery of legs). Meanwhile, the settings are providing a lot of snarky digs at suburban life (in the 50s?). A crazy game altogether.

13.  Unrest.  A Kickstarter game I backed whose campaign was run on-time and professionally, and they delivered exactly what they pitched.  This is a fantasy game set in Fantasy India (made in India by an Indie Indian game studio...India) presented as a series of scenarios where you play several characters, ranging from a princess to a slum girl to an ambassador from the non-human tribe.  In each scenario you are given a backstory and an environment to interact with and, ultimately, a choice, the deciding decision of this character's life.  You make the choices and see the results at the end of the game.  A very cool concept.  (By the way, the soundtrack alone is worth the asking price.)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Year 2014 Lists: Part I, Books

By request, something other than video games.  (Reprinted from Facebook, where this is a yearly tradition.)

Books Read This Year (In No Particular Order)

1. Early P. G. Wodehouse. One of my goals this year was to read all of the free P. G. Wodehouse books available. I had previously read all of the Jeeves books and loved them. It turns out that early in his career (before the Public Domain cutoff) that Wodehouse was a struggling writer who got by publishing serials in boys' magazine, so all of his early novels are set in British boarding schools around the turn of the century (the kind of thing that Harry Potter is an homage to). All of the books revolve around a collection of young gentlemen who play a sport--a different one in each book, cook sausages in their rooms, and brawl with the townspeople. But mostly it's the sports. I learned far more than I ever wanted to know of 1910 British sports slang and the scoring for wrestling, long distance running (called "sports"), football (which seems to be rugby), soccer, and cricket. (Please bring your questions on cricket to me. I can, begolly, answer them.) I don't recommend anyone actually subject themselves to this reading regimen, but there are a few stand-out titles. One is Love Among The Chickens, which stars actual adults. This one is probably only good because it was rewritten much later. In this book, a hapless upperclassman (these are common in Wodehouse) somehow gets involved with an amoral school friend who wants to start a chicken farm despite, of course, not knowing the first thing about it. I can also recommend Mike which starts as the standard Cricket tale but changes course mid-book and introduces Psmith, the fast-talking Communist lad who always has a plan who went on to star in a whole series of enjoyable books thereafter.

2. Reformed Vampires Support Group by Catherine Jinks. If you only read one terrible YA vampire book this year, make it this one. The protagonist was vamired as a teenager in the seventies and now lives with her aging mom, working online and attending a support group to pass the time. Life as a vampire is not great. They burn in sunlight, feel weak and sick, and go on a crazed murdering spree if they smell blood, so they have a lot to complain about at the support group. But the protagonist wants more out of life than living indoors and grouching with the same people weekly year after year. Will something exciting or at least interesting ever happen?

3. We Could Be Villians by Missy Meyer. I actually read chick lit this year! The protagonist is an artist working in the software industry. She spends her time snarking about the local superheros and casually flirting with the cute guy she met at a firedrill. But...then the plot completely changes. I'll bet you can guess how, but still it's a lot of fun to read.

4. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. I put this here because it deserves to be more widely-read, although it is not really my kind of book. The plot is almost exactly Twilight, except the characters are interesting and smart, and the entire book is really well-written. Plot: the protagonist really loves her boyfriend. Unfortunately, he keeps turning into a wolf...

5. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. I read the above due to finding this book, which is amazing. It starts slowly, but it ramps up and up. There are so many twists to the story and extra dimensions to the characters to discover. The protagonist is a small-town girl who is Not a psychic, odd in her family because all of the assorted women who live in her house Are psychic and make their living that way. She meets a group of boys from the wealthy-kids boarding school who are on a quest to discover the burial site of an ancient Welsh king. Read it. My favorite book of the year.

6. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. This book seems to be a Western about two brothers who are contract killers, but it also seems to be some sort of psychological journey. I suspect it of committing Symbolism, but don't hold that against it. (The author's previous novel was a novel consisting of notes on possibly writing a novel...) The brothers are unlucky guys with serious character flaws who bungle their way across the old west discovering strange people...alchemists, murderous children, violent whores, shamans, their mom...

7. Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. I love Bujold's science fiction series, but I have been really reluctant to try her fantasy after being burned by her romantic fantasy series (which is absolutely terrible). I picked this one up for $1 in the Humble Bundle, though, so I finally read it. It's great! This series is set in medieval fantasy world, which has humans but no elves or whatnot, only the addition of priestly magic. This is the start of a series of five books about five loosely-related characters who become Saints, people through whom the gods directly interact with the world. The religios devotion Feels very realistic to me here, and the plots have their usual Bujold intracacy. I recommend it.

8. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I told you to read this last year. Why haven't you yet? I've already read it twice now.

9. The Beetle by Richard Marsh. A horribly-androgynous horror comes to London to Opress a group of upper-class Victorians. We have a Lord with a Dread Secret, a Rational Scientist who keeps getting put in the Friend Zone, a Modern Sensible Lady, and a Reject From Charles Dickens, who all face the Horror that is The Beetle. This book was written the same year as Dracula. It is practically bursting with the tension between the Rational Victorian Mind and the Victorian Fascination With the Gothic. Read this for historical interest; don't expect to be scared.

10. The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel by L. Jagi Lamplighter. Lamplighter continues her series set in a world in which someone has erased/is erasing the concept of Monotheism from existance, although the plot has nothing to do with that (presumably the plot of the books and the world plot will converge in a latter book; currently, the protagonist and possibly the reader are not meant to have noticed the changes). Regardless of whether the book is any good or not, it has an amazing cover. I recommend you go look at it, but read the first book in the series first. This one dives right in to the epilogue of the last book and stays there without developing a new plot for many pages.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Let's Play Saints Row II: Part VII

Now I'm a legitimate businessman and look it too.

Carlos gets in touch with Maero the Brotherhood king.  He wants to meet in his underground lair.

He seems like a reasonable person.

I think we can do business if we keep a few things straight.

He's actually kinda cute when he's angry.

Just when things are getting good, the cops show up.

I hate negotiations.

Ugh!  Who is going to clean this mess up?!  I can tell you right now it won't be me.

Maero lives in some kinda cave system/tourist trap.  There are screaming civilians and shooting cops everywhere.

Dang it, Maero.  I just got my hair did.

We finally make it to the surface and exit through the gift shop. I take the time to pick up a Scenic Stalagtite Souvenoir. The clerk merely screams and dives under the counter when I want to argue that it is worn more like a Stalagmite. I guess this will be free then.

Maero's gang is hard at work in the chop shop.

Maero's girl is kinda clingy.

She introduces herself to me...

...and comments that Carlos reminds her of her housekeeper.

You don't seem as grateful as you did when I was scraping cops off your hideout.

All kinds of nope!

Here's how it is going to be. Whatever deal you thought you could make is off. And quit staring at my hat. We're leaving, Carlos.

Let's Play Saint's Row II: Part VI

Johnny asks me who gonna be in our crew.  I tell him to let me worry about the lieutenants, and he can round up some grunts.

I check in with Carlos, who has recovered from his shanking. Anyone who takes a shank for me is a brother for life.

Carlos, buddy, before we steal a car in the middle of an angry mob of hos, you gotta let a sista know about it.

Come on people, it's just a car?!

Okay, it is pretty swank doe.

I know your time holding down the parking lot is valuable. What's I gotta do to convince you to come back?


AGGGGGGHHHHH! I mean, Thank you.

Yeah, dressing up like Samurai is kinda insensitive.

Die, cultural appropriationer!

Did I miss the hazing?

Alright, everybody, listen up. Do you know what time it is? It's time to t--No, Lloyd, put your hand down, I'm speaking rhetorically.

It's time to take back the city!

Each of my hand-picked lieutenants will figure out how to infiltrate one of the three gangs who run things these days.
Our time has come again! No! *sigh* Rhetorical, again, Lloyd. I don't mean the exact time is important. Will you take that stupid clock necklace off already???

Let's Play Saint's Row II: Part V

A girl's gots needs.  For example, my needs are $$$.  This chick's needs involve her coworker.

It's hard being a female radio news reporter.  Her cocaster gets so much more airtime.  I feel you, but what you want me to do about it?

"We're live at the scene of the rampage of the century! Pedestrians dive left and right as the unstoppable madwoman hops from car to car demolishing priceless landmarks and pedestrians alike! Ladies and Gentlemen, I may just have to interrupt my co-host indefinitely to bring you this fascinating coverage."

Hey, it's that sleazy lawyer that was representing Johnny!  Get away from me, man; you'll get lawyer on me.

I can't help you with your police problems, yo.

Okay, well, maybe I can.

I am an expert on cops from my time in the pen!  I can cop like a champ!

This one won't meet me at her office because she is secretly a Socialist revolutionary who wants to take down big government, big shopping, and, eh, whatever else is in front of her at the time.

Quit flapping your mouth, lady. What you really need is an unstoppable force of destruction so powerful that people fear coming within a mile of it. Something that leaves destruction in its wake and salts the earth, am I right?

I know just the thing.

*ahem*  At this point I better mention there is a mime surcharge.
The mad mime bomber pays enough that I can quit for the day.  It's so nice of everyone to keep letting me borrow their rides.

Perfect ten-point landing.  Buy, truck!  Have fun going wherever you're going.

Finally, it's the pad I've always dreamed of.

Bedbugs are only really funny for the first minute or so, then they start to get old.


Dey my boys 4 life!

Say it like you mean it; say it with panthers.

This here my plantin' arm!

And this is where the party at!

To top off the day, I try out our new logo.  The elderly neighborhood residents are art haters and like to criticize with their fists.  I end up in the hospital.  There goes the rest of the money...