Slime Rancher Free Till Mar 21

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At the risk of sounding like a complete shill, it behooves me to advise that Slime Rancher is currently free and everyone should go download it now.

Yes, it is on the Epic Games launcher. Yes, you may have perfectly valid reasons as to why you will not support Epic Game’s launcher. I’m not asking you to pay any money to Epic Games. You can, in fact, drain Epic Game’s coffers by just utilizing their free games and bandwidth to download without paying them a cent. After you try the free game out, you can uninstall and wipe it and the launcher clean off your hard drive for all I care.

However you rationalize it, you should just go effing download Slime Rancher right now.

Because anyone who doesn’t give themselves the gift of bright colors, round cuteness, and adorable squeals is missing out on a whole load of happy.

You are only excused if you can scroll through two or three pages of the /Aww Subreddit without feeling at least the glimmer of a smile creep up for at least one picture.

Even if you’re convinced this type of game is not for you, at least give it a try. 15 minutes, see how it goes from there.

There is something about Slime Rancher and its simple formula that somehow yields engagement. The basic objectives are easy to grasp. You’re a farmer (well, rancher.) You rear slimes. Feed the slimes, they give you plorts (ie. cute slime poop.) You sell the poop and make $$$. Rinse and repeat.

The game opens up with more and more discoveries. You have to go look for said slimes. Your map expands with each exploration. Said slimes may have unexpected interactions with other objects. You make simple plans and strategies to cope with these interactions. Forays out in ever widening radius, and returning home in cyclic fashion to tend to what you already have.

It is satisfying. It is perfect for a mild case of the blues.

There are small little chores on the ranch which must get done; there are slimes counting you (not to mention the possibility of staving off absolute chaos and disaster of bored, escaped slimes). Yet they are easy enough that they sneak past lethargic resistance and inertia and you get going. One thing follows another.

As you shovel slime manure out of one pen (hey, it’s money), you realize you better feed those other slimes. So you go to the vegetable patch, hoover up the veggies and return. But when you’re there, you pass yet another pen, which reminds you that fruits are needed. so that becomes task number 2 after you’re done.

At the end of it, you brush your brow and look back at a neat, tidy, well-maintained ranch full of happy bouncy slimes and feel good about yourself.

And now you have time to go check out something new and unknown that you may not have seen before, collect something new to bring back, which starts the whole process all over again.

Until you’re done for the day and log out. They’ll be waiting for you when you need them.

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Well, unless they’re quantum slimes. I came back to absolute chaos when popping back into the game to take screenshots for this post. I was out far far away on the map and wandered around for 2+ in-game days trying to remember my way back home. Whole place needed massive tidying up after.

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Cleaned up. Stuffed the escaped slimes back in. Now with all the food inside the pen attracting them inward, rather than outward. Plus new slime toys.

P.S. I took time out from Path of Exile’s Synthesis League and Warframe’s recent patch drop just to write this post and evangelize. That’s how good I feel the Slime Rancher experience is. Everyone should try it, if only for a little while. As for me, it’s back to the grind of leveling up and getting all the things.

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Doing More Going Small

Once upon a time, there was a strange Machiavellian named Robert Greene who wrote a book on “Mastery” for the specialists.

A friend recommended it to me, presumably in good faith as said friend was directed like an arrow towards a PhD (possibly one of the most expert specialist pathways possible in this world.) They loved every word of it. 10,000 hours to reach peak expertise, one supreme calling, becoming a “master,” mystical verbiage and all.

Me, I got maybe one chapter into it before I started asking myself if I wanted to take advice from a authority/power-motivated, depth-obsessed individual with flowery New Age writing whose previous books centred around domination and seduction, power and control.

(Not that they’re wrong. Takes all types to make the world. Someone’s got to climb the cutthroat corporate ladder to wind up rich and hated/lonely/still unhappy at the top. Whatever works for them.)

But anyhow, even if we disregard the author’s prior history, the book is directed at wannabe specialists, and I identify far more with the other weird beat-of-a-different-drum subtype of generalist known as scanners, multipotentialites, Renaissance people, jacks-of-all-trades, or just-plain-indecisive, depending on who you ask.

While browsing through one of those internet refuges for those perpetually unwilling and unable to laser focus on one supreme primary interest of their lifetime, someone mentioned a book entitled “Micromastery.”

Now this weirdo, Robert Trigger, decided to write a book for the more scattered interest sort of generalist, who also happens to value the idea of mastery… and demonstrating it. To all and sundry. Trigger is as obsessed with showing off as Greene is obsessed with control.

(Then again, some of his later specific examples are just as painful to read and highly debatable. He distills ‘writing good dialogue’ down to being all about a relationship status exchange between high and low status personages and ‘good storytelling drama’ as a  domination-submission contest. Wat?)

Despite the lack of shared values, the man has hit upon an intriguing concept. Downsizing, doing and learning things in miniature form, in order to fit in multiple interests into a limited time attention and life span.

Trigger suggests talking with experts and dabbling with learning just ‘one good trick’ that neatly encapsulates key principles in an area of interest. A micro-distillation of truth and knowledge that can be learnt, practiced and then demonstrated to establish said micromastery.

If we used a cooking metaphor, Robert Greene’s Mastery is about the ambition to become this hard-as-fuck, chill-as-fuck superstar celebrity chef that gives no fucks, opening and running multiple restaurants, earning Michelin stars while being able to cook double or triple shifts and plate $300 a head meals in their sleep… as well as all the grunt work in between while striving to reach that level. (While carefully never mentioning all those who don’t make the cut.)

Robert Trigger’s Micromastery is about learning how to cook one damn good fluffy omelette, complete with specific expert tips on the best way to crack an egg (on a flat surface) and creating maximum fluff by whipping the egg whites separately before folding in the yolks. And then doing it well, before calling the expedition into “cooking” done.

He wants to tell us that there’s room for people who value mastery, but don’t have the time or interest to invest that figurative 10,000 hours into being a supreme expert at one thing. Perhaps they can be content investing 1, 10, or 100 hours into learning one small thing really really well, before moving on to another big topic or interest.

The more I read books like the above, the more I keep wanting to ask, “But what about those people who do -not- value mastery?” Shocking though that concept may be to those who do.

Surely the not-specialists with multiple interests can be subdivided into a group of people who value mastery and the demonstration of it thereof, and a group of other people who do not give two fucks about whether they are -good- at something, only that they love it – be it learning about it, doing it, or experiencing it.

Hence the word origins of “amateur,” before it became conflated with the concept of incompetence or ineptitude, stemming from French meaning “lover of”, ie. someone who does something for enjoyment or pleasure, not for money or on a professional basis or as a job.

Going back to the cooking metaphor, surely there are people who are happy just frying a regular plain old egg now and then (and if they screw it up, well, there’s always scrambled eggs to save the day.)

Or people who are more interested playing around with and experimenting with the different ways to cook an egg. Hard boiled, soft boiled, poached, steamed, scrambled, over easy, over hard, over medium, souffled, whatever.

And surely there are people who do not even want to go anywhere near a kitchen but are perfectly happy sitting down and enjoying a nice eggs Benedict or hearty English breakfast, before losing interest and re-focusing on deciding where to go for lunch.

So I thought, why not take the micromastery concept one step further?

Let us assume that there is a subset of people less concerned with mastery and expertise, and who simply value the experience of doing something related to the topic – getting the broad overview, sampling the highlights, or just getting stuck in and absorbing the feel and atmosphere of a topic, in all its good and/or bad aspects.

Can we not decouple the mastery angle and distill down the concept to a “microexploration”, or even simpler still, a “microexperience?”

Exploration, after all, like mastery, might be its own thing. That big group of non-specialists instead of being subdivided by yea-mastery or nay-mastery might be instead subdivided into people who value exploration (and the consequent feelings of self-discovery, be it awe at stumbling on something breathtaking, surprise at seeing something unexpected, or joy at cracking the code, solving the riddle or puzzle or breaking the boundaries) and people who really do -not- like wasting time feeling lost or struggling and are perfectly cool with guidance and direction to the end point of where they want to go.

I suppose, the idea of a microexploration would involve curiosity, asking questions, finding out the answers, self-discovery. An egg obsessed individual doing a Food Lab on little things pertinent to egg cookery. Or in game terms finding out answers to formulated questions, be it something simple like “what are the types of biomes in this game?” or “how do I properly use this weapon?” or something more elaborately convoluted.

A microexperience would be a more consumerist state. A small taster, nibbling on tapas and bar-hopping. Browsing a buffet to pick and choose serving sizes of food that pleases you while ignoring stuff you hate. Sitting down at a kaiseki bar and asking the chef to serve you omakase style and enjoying what they present to you.

I want to call out these experiences for what they are. Perfectly Acceptable.

We need to broaden the concept of experiencing games. Not all or nothing. Finish all the food on your dinner plate. (Or else. People are starving in Somalia, you know.)

The amount of people I read on various social media lamenting about their inability to finish games and their massive backlog is exhausting.

I want to point out that it is perfectly all right to choose to go to a buffet for variety of options.. where you might be thrown out if you do try to finish every single plate of food on offer (or puke up or die trying.)

Or to visit a tapas place where you get SMALL plates on which you can finish the food. (Imagine that, changing the plate size to suit you.)

To test out the concept, I moved the metaphor from food and cookery into the game arena.

This past February, I resolved to give myself permission to just have microexperiences with various games. I would install a game, play it for 10-30 minutes, and stop if that felt like enough for me. I’d continue if I still wanted to. If not, then I’d move on to another interest, another game, being satisfied with my little game taster.

No guilt was involved, as I’m really good at telling myself I’ll get back to stuff as and when I feel like it. (And I did in fact wind up revisiting several games as the desire took me.)

I’m pleased to report that this style of gameplay seems to be checking several boxes for me presently. (Your own mileage may vary, of course.)

I’ve sampled more games in a short timespan than I otherwise would have. I learned that I really just needed to play a mission or three of particular games to reach a temporary satiation point and get it out of my system.

Certain games just wound up sticking in the subconscious and got played more regularly for days. I even completed a short game. (Never would have happened if I stuck to one primary game and focus.)

PC

  • Monster Hunter World – 16h
  • Warframe – 15h
  • Middle Earth: Shadow of War – 15h
  • GW2 – 15h
  • Hitman – 5h
  • Book of Demons – 4h
  • Cultist Simulator – 3h
  • Subsurface Circular – 1.75h
  • Vermintide 2 – 1.6h
  • 911 Operator – 1.4h
  • Wolfquest – 0.7h

Nintendo Switch

  • Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Octopath Traveller

PS4

  • Detroit: Become Human
  • Patapon
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us

The listed spread is impressive. The microexperiences are small, but notable.

Monster Hunter World wound up an exercise in tiny micromasteries. One night became a deliberate practice exercise re-learning how to use Charge Blade, having forgotten every last thing about it, including the specific keybinds I’d made earlier – my mouse profiles remembered but not my brain. I dabbled with new weapons. I did simple Investigations. I pushed ahead day by day, quest by quest until I finally got out of Low Rank and into the High Rank portion of the main storyline.

Warframe has always been about the microexperience, broken down into single missions for quests, for farming resources for one item or another. GW2 has been distilled down into a holding pattern of 3h twice weekly for a static raid of three wings until I regain the interest for the rest of the game.

Shadow of War was another surprise alongside Monster Hunter World in how it hooked me. I’ve always liked Shadow of Mordor. So having -more- varied orcs to bash on held me for a decent while. Definitely due for a revisit soon.

I finally finished the Marrakesh mission I’d bogged down on in Hitman. Did one round of Bangkok. Haven’t gotten back around to it yet. The taster was enough.

Book of Demons I described in an earlier post. Started a new archer class. Played some mini-levels as and when I felt like it.

Cultist Simulator was one of the revealed games off the March Humble Bundle Monthly. I went for an early unlock because I was dying to give Vermintide 2 a try.

Coming into it completely unknown, it surprised me. The words and verbs and phrases gave me an immediate Fallen London feeling – I had to look it up, yep, same writer Alexis Kennedy.

It was some sort of elaborate board/card game built around the concept of discovery through arcane and esoteric experimentation. The first playthrough was a complete disaster. I had no idea what I was doing. I wanted to write it off entirely.

I held on for long enough to try a second run, this time pausing more frequently like a Baldur’s Gate sequel gone wrong. Things…began to make a smidgen more sense. Just a little. At least not careening towards total disaster, and more a slow slide into an eventual need for a third round once entropy finished nibbling. My solution so far has been to stop playing the game for now and get back to it eventually. It’s weird yet certainly interesting to mess around with, if not 100% compelling to me at this juncture.

Vermintide 2, on the other hand, was more of a comfortable quick confirmation. I had no interest playing multiplayer and engaging in the loot cycle. I just wanted to bash some rat skulls with bots. I played the first 2-3 missions over 2-3 days and got my fill of smashed Skaven. For now. Next!

911 Operator let me pretend to be a police dispatcher, with the amusing schtick that it can personalize the experience with a localized map. I played a few shifts, moving fire trucks and police cars and ambulances around and answering various (prank) calls.

Wolfquest let me pretend to be a wolf, with not especially captivating graphics or gameplay at this juncture. (A new version is purportedly in the works, so it’s more of an potential investment. But given my avatar, I had to give it a try.) I bit and brought down a bunch of elk, but couldn’t progress further with the tutorial until I killed more elk. Littering the landscape with wasted elk corpses in order to gain xp to progress felt distinctly non-simulatory, and I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it after the fifth elk or so. (At least 8 were needed.) I couldn’t quite figure out what else to do beyond that, so I gave up. Perhaps version 3 will have more stuff to do.

I invested in the two famously reviewed Switch games I desired over the Chinese New Year holiday period. Haven’t gotten significantly far, but enough to get a taster of both. Zelda BoTW is amazingly interactive. Everything in the world appears carefully crafted and designed to be interacted with, with consistent rules and physics. Octopath offers some of that traditional JRPG turn-based combat comfort, with a spectacularly unique aesthetic perspective blending pixel art and realism.

I also went nuts and jumped to pick up a slightly discounted Detroit: Become Human. Played the first couple of chapters. Pretty much exactly what I expect from a David Cage game, just better iterated on over time. I am oddly reluctant to keep going, if only because I don’t quite want the experience to end, or to settle on one path for the story. Even though I know I can play through multiple times and should just go with the flow for the first playthrough. Being shown the branching possibilities after every chapter has sort of short circuited me. I’ll get back to it when I’m ready.

I revisited nostalgia by giving Patapon a spin on the PS4. It took a while to get accustomed to the rhythm game again. The 3/4 music time minigames are destroying me in their impossibility, and I am unsure if it is the port that reportedly has some lag issues (though the regular 4/4 time doesn’t seem that bad on my particular system) or if it is my lack of rhythm ability or both. I shall revisit it when I am ready to attempt a micromastery with 3/4 beats and consult some video guides.

On a whim, I picked up a supremely discounted Injustice on PS4 (since I’ve never gotten around to playing the supremely discounted Injustice I picked up on Steam) and sampled the first few cutscenes and fights on Very Easy difficulty. It has to be, because I have zero base experience with fighting games as a genre and am the equivalent of a non-gamer struggling to navigate a 3D MMO space with keyboard and mouse camera.

It looks vaguely interesting to experience, but it has some kind of audio problem where the voices are much softer than everything else – which is rather impossible when the game is mostly cinematic cutscene story interspersed with fighting game bouts. I’ll get around to diagnosing the source of the problem and Googling for a fix at some point. But certainly not when I’m in a mood to spread my focus far and wide and not get bogged down. So I moved on.

Subsurface Circular was the surprise completed game of these couple weeks. I wasn’t even planning on playing it, but saw it already installed on my Steam list and the name seemed intriguing. It must have come as part of one of those Humble Bundles or similar. It is a neat bite-sized microexperience, creating a believable story and setting out of the limited constraints of a small game design team. Robot models, with no faces. One room. A subway car. No voice acting. Just text-based conversations, beamed robot-to-robot in SMS form. Yet it establishes the illusion that a world exists beyond the subway car and lets you explore a little of it through conversations with NPCs.

It even sneaks in a little ad for Thomas Was Alone, something else that I should get around to microexperiencing soon.

I won’t say that it’s a -great- game, because it isn’t. It has only slightly more interactivity than a visual novel, and I’m not sure if it has much branching narrative beyond some side conversation options and a binary choice at the end. But for a quick memorable ‘indie’ experience, yes, it is worth playing.

And that’s the games roundup for these 20 odd days or so. Looking forward to running with this microexperience concept further. I feel like I’ve covered a lot more just by going small.

HOT and Cold…

I’ll be honest. I struggle sticking with games that want me to struggle.

I get it. The lonely toil of the proletariat and the bleak despair of quotidian (and undead, figuratively or otherwise) existence in places like Frostpunk, Papers Please, This War of Mine, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, The Long Dark can only be encapsulated by the brutal struggle of the player against unfeeling game mechanics that demand enormous effort, merely to remain treading water at status quo. The default steady state is an entropic (or worse, abrupt) decline into failure and defeat.

This is “challenge.” This is “ideal difficulty” for those lifting themselves above the hoi polloi. This is an artistic statement conveyed by both the game systems and the game’s aesthetic conveying a forlorn mood of winter grey and a bitter cold unfeeling world.

This is also not a game I’ll end up playing for long.

For one thing, I don’t need extra help feeling depressed, thanks. Capable of doing that all on my own. I’d rather devs spend a bit more artistic exploration and research in the opposite direction (how about taking a look at Ingrid Fetell Lee‘s Joyful for ideas?) so that I have more mood lifters to reach for besides Slime Rancher.

For another, there’s the time factor. Ain’t enough hours in the day to do everything already, why should I spend tens and hundreds of those hours working out by trial and error the narrow balancing act of timing and numbers juggling and then executing flawlessly or be harshly penalized? Or weirdly, spend a couple hours crowdsourcing the collected knowledge of the game to read as homework to cut short the above experience just to be more efficient, when another solution might be tweaking some of those numbers and timing up or down to be a mite more forgiving?

So it is with some relief that I find that some of these games come with difficulty sliders.

Currently Playing: Frostpunk

[Normal Difficulty, First Attempt] The First City was doomed from the beginning. A new overseer, heeding the plaintive cries of the city’s homeless citizenry sent its workers trudging through steep snow banks to break up wooden crates and salvage coal and steel wreckage. All the better to build temporary tents around the sputtering coal-fed Generator, the only source of warmth in miles.

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The citizens fell sick, working inefficiently in the bitter cold. The overseer struggled to provide sufficient Medical Posts, while keeping the ravenous Generator fueled and the equally ravenous citizenry from consuming all available food, which was not yet sufficiently supplied or sustained by teams of workers hunting from dusk till dawn.

As more and more citizens became gravely ill, productivity plummeted, causing shortages of nearly every resource. Merciless winter storms turned the city into an icicle for days. Nonessential resource gathering was abandoned for only the essentials, but that only delayed the inevitable.

By the time news arrived of the fall of Frosthome, a distant city far more advanced than The First City, and sent citizens muttering that they might have been better off staying home in London, it was not so much the morale of the citizenry that took the greatest hit, but that of the overseer.

In a fey mood of despair, the overseer surrendered the city to fend for itself through the ravages of time. Days passed. Things got no better. To the overseer’s surprise, the city did not immediately die or outright revolt. But eventually, the citizenry sensed that something was wrong with the overseer.

Stirring themselves from their somnambulant discontent, a small posse gathered and deposed the overseer. A trial found the overseer not altogether uncaring, before their dereliction of duty, and a death sentence was commuted to exile from the city instead.

Head bent, shrugging to themselves, the overseer walked away from the city, knowing that the First City was already in the first throes of its imminent death. There had been no saving it. The remaining citzenry would find that out soon enough.

[Easy Difficulty, Second Attempt] The Second City was different.

Fortune smiled on the Second City, blessing her with less harsh and shorter periods of bitterly cold weather and citizenry of a hardier stock. Even if they had to work in the cold, they were more prone to catching the sniffles rather than lose a limb from frostbite.

Their overseer had the inspired idea to set up Gathering Posts as warmer shelter for the workers while they salvaged their steel and wood and coal. Almost immediately, efficiency shot skyward, requiring only ten workers to do the entire job instead of the chain gangs of 15 trudging through thick snow to their individual goals.

That produced a resource stockpile for the Second City to develop its necessary buildings and technology at a healthier pace. Oh, there was still effort and work on a daily basis by all parties, but significantly less desperation.

The City is healthy enough to have a scout team exploring the frozen wasteland for news. An Automaton toils in their Steelworks. All the citizenry have roofed homes, most of them are gainfully employed. There are good sized stockpiles of the crucial resources for now.

Recently, unrest among the Londoners had been stirring up a smidgen of trouble, forcing the overseer to develop a constabulary of watchmen to police the neighborhood and a prison to hold the criminally inclined. For the moment, that’s all that is required – nothing too Orwellian, just a city guard protecting the public and on the lookout for those who would shatter the peace and progress of the Second City.

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As I said earlier, I get it.

I get that Frostpunk, in its original form, wants to be a game about grueling resource management, balancing inputs and outputs on a razor-thin edge between making it to the grey dawn of another morning struggling to be birthed out of the sleet frozen night or a slow, inexorable decline to entropic breakdown from the accumulation of tiny unnoticed errors.

I get that it’s trying to make some sort of artistic statement about how players might be tempted to implement morally questionable policies with unknown ramifications in order to address short term problems like not actually dying tomorrow. That survival in a post-apocalyptic nightmare may be down to equations that value cruel and harsh choices over our current conception of civilized niceties, and to question if that sort of survival is really worth it if you end up with a dystopia.

Having gotten it, I don’t actually find the above fun to play.

It feels like there is some sort of “optimal build order” to follow if you don’t want to get in severe trouble later on. It feels like a game that needs to be constantly on pause while you check every single building and the economy screen that all your resource equations are balanced, and haven’t suddenly gotten wrecked because a bunch of citizens fell sick.

It feels like even when you’re barely clinging on to balance, the game will purposefully chuck stuff at you to force you out of balance and on the downward slide to nowhere good – significantly cold weather spells that either increase coal consumption or the likelihood of people falling sick, which leads to lost productivity and resource generation, which then leads to more knock-on problems… or random events where the hope you were slowly building up gets slashed to nothing because RNG has decided it is time for a bunch of people to be discontented now.

Perhaps this is fun as a challenge mode later, to those of the masochistic gamer bent.

To have it as the default introductory experience seems… odd.

For my first attempt, I lasted about two RL hours, approximately 20 in-game days, before I decided that I was in a slow death spiral loop of not having prepared sufficiently enough and decided to fast forward time until everybody died or the city collapsed from discontent or something.

I ended up exiled from the city, apparently thanks to some moral policies I had made, rather than put to death. Since the city itself was on a fast declining road to nowhere good, having been purposefully ignored by its overseer for days, this was a better end than I had expected.

I was ready to call it there, being not exactly keen to start the scenario again and attempt to repeat the linear process, just with more optimizations, in order to cling on longer.

A stray Reddit discussion caught my eye and revealed the existence of an “easy” mode. Oh, really? I had not seen any difficulty slider in the settings. Apparently it was masked within the Customize Settings button after choosing a scenario.

Since I was attracted by the aesthetic and the city-building premise, I resolved to give it one more chance on its easiest available difficulty, to see if that offered any more room to breathe, relax and make newbie mistakes that aren’t unforgivingly punished seven days later.

It did.

The Second City went much more smoothly, with faster progress and less random monkey-wrenches that were hurled solely for the purpose of screwing up the machinery and then forcing a harsh choice between shutting off the machinery in order to remove the wrench, or letting it rattle around in there until it broke important parts of the machine, or making the operator snatch the wrench out while the machinery was still running and wind up with a pulverized hand and a long term disability.

I suppose some of it was due to a slightly more enlightened Reddit-hinted experimental start, where I ignored the tutorial and began building resource gathering huts right away, instead of my trusting naïveté of the first game that the tutorial would teach me how to play.

But I’m also sure a lot of it was due to lower chances of civilians catching a chill and falling sick, and general improved tolerances for inefficient play.

Since my main purpose is to explore whatever a game has to offer, I found the quicker progress and checking out the new unlocked systems a lot more fun than the struggle to clamber out of the tech equivalent of the Stone Age.

Started at 11pm, played till 3am. On a work day. Regret would only hit in the morning when the alarm clock went off.

As The Second City still isn’t dead yet, I guess I’ll be happy to play on for now.

After that, I’m not so sure if I can be bothered ramping up the challenge level any further when there are other games and other experiences to be had.

Maybe one day I’ll be in the mood for a roguelike permadeath city-building survival game where the goal is to keep restarting to see how long you can survive. Then again, given that roguelike restarts offer more variety where this seems to be more akin to a ‘hypothesize, develop and master a theoretical ideal build order’ strategy, maybe not.

Play if you like strategically juggling meters while struggling barefoot uphill, both ways, in the snow.


 

Play Again, Later (Maybe): SuperHOT

SuperHOT is weird.

sh1

I was expecting relatively quick and simple arcade sequences where the main schtick is its advertised slow motion “FPS that moves only when you move!”

sh2

For the most part, I got that. The gimmick is cute enough. It starts out easy and progresses on to challenges where even just turning your head with your mouse may be split seconds of time wasted, resulting in a bullet to your chest and forcing a restart.

I could easily see a subset of people obsessed with performing and recording increasingly stylish maneuvers for later playback to others. Me, I was good just going with whatever worked to get me to the next stage.

sh3

Riiight…

I was NOT expecting an overly clever attempt at some sort of subversive AI/hacker storyline, complete with superliminal messages in giant white block letters, overlaid on top of the arcade scenarios.

sh4

This, I was not prepared for. In another frame of mind, I might have perhaps enjoyed the conspiracy theory setting of meddling with things one does not understand.

Instead, I have to term the attempt “overly clever” because the messaging practically tells you that whatever you’re doing is not merely a game, is probably wrong and immoral, that you’re hacked into something big that you definitely don’t understand, that they’re both controlling you and watching you, and that you should stop. Right now.

On a meta level, I suppose they expect the player to respond to the dare as a challenge and rebelliously continue.

I am really curious to know just how many players, like me, said “Ok” and quit out instead.

I mean, presumably going further would have revealed some sort of deteriorating storyline along that weird vein (I googled the plot synopsis, I don’t think I would miss much) with more puzzle levels to get through.

sh5

And while I found the gimmick interesting in a novel sense, I also found the gimmick gimmicky.

I was mostly resorting to the same strategies of an FPS, just in slightly less exciting slow motion and forced to restart over and over when I turned my head to look around a bit too much or mistimed strafing out of the way of some bullets.

In essence, by the time that first option of “quit or not” came up, I had pretty much had my fill. So I agreed with the big boss man in my head and exited the game.

Never to return?

Full disclaimer, I went a little further just to get some screenshots because I realized I forgot to take any. But then I pulled out beyond what seemed like a point of no return – or at least the point where you get a special ability (so hints the guide.)

Perhaps when I am bored and looking for more along the same vein, I’ll come back. But equally possible, I may get distracted by a whole load of other things and never quite continue from where I left off. Perhaps it is better in VR. Perhaps it is just not for me.

Play if you like slow motion Matrix sequences and Pony Island-like fourth wall-breaking metastory.