Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: What Remains of Edith Finch

Game: What Remains of Edith Finch
Time: 3 hours

I received this game as a Christmas gift, and finished back over Christmas holiday. I’d heard of this game before, and had wanted to try it out, so this gave me the excuse I needed to get that done.

I don’t want to say too much about it, because this is a game that’s very easy to spoil. I went in pretty blind, and suggest that if you’re interested in trying it out, you do the same.

What is It?

The Steam store page describes it as:

What Remains of Edith Finch is a collection of strange tales about a family in Washington state. As Edith, you’ll explore the colossal Finch house, searching for stories as she explores her family history and tries to figure out why she’s the last one in her family left alive.

This is pretty much all you need to know to play.

The environment is very atmospheric, and while I thought at first this might be a spooky game, it didn’t turn out to be. Now, that being said, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that unsettle or make you feel uneasy. There’s plenty of that to be found in these stories.

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Generations of the Finch family have lived and died in this strange, winding house. Edith comes here as a young adult to revisit her childhood home and to find answers for herself. Almost every member of the family has a story about who they were and what led them to their demise.

As you experience these stories, you fill out a Finch family tree.

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Once you complete the game, and fill in the entire tree, you can come back here anytime to replay specific scenarios based on the family members. Some of these were disturbing enough the first time, however.

Some might call this a walking simulator. I feel the variations in the style of storytelling and mechanics you encounter between family members’ stories help to break up the feeling of the traditional walking simulator.

Again, I can’t really say a whole lot without giving much away. But there was a particular sequence that involved someone who worked in a fish factory that was especially brilliant. The overlap of gameplay and story really put me right in that character’s mindset in a frightening way.

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Anyhow, if there’s a nit to pick, it’s that the game is fairly short. While you can go back and replay stories, it only took me 3 hours of slow exploration to get through the game. For some people, this might be too short.

Looking back on it, I think forcing the game to be longer would have been detrimental. The game is compact for a purpose. It told the stories it wanted to tell, and left the rest to the player to figure out.

Also, the ending may not sit well with everyone. But that’s a call you’ll have to make for yourself.

Recommended?

yes

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Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Planet Coaster

Game: Planet Coaster
Time: 5.4 hours

Last year, I played Roller Coaster Tycoon for the first time ever. I loved it! And while I appreciated it for everything it was, I couldn’t help feel the itch of what-if. What if these mechanics were implemented into a more modern game engine?

That’s what I found in Planet Coaster.

Now, I’m not going to say that the two games are exactly alike — there are a lot of minor differences. But the feeling Planet Coaster gave me – one of building my amusement park and watching little virtual people pickpocket enjoy it — was very similar.

I’ve wanted to try it out, but the normal price deterred me. I saw it on major sale during the Steam Winter Sale ($12) and snapped it up.

What Is It?

It’s a roller coaster and amusement park building sim with tycoon elements thrown in.

The game describes itself as:

Planet Coaster® – the future of coaster park simulation games has arrived! Surprise, delight and thrill incredible crowds as you build your coaster park empire – let your imagination run wild, and share your success with the world.

Just a bit of PR speak for “amusement park tycoon game.”

I’ve read that some people had issues with performance in the past, and while I’ve not yet made a huge park, I’ve also not had issues with this game so far. I also haven’t really jumped into the coaster building aspect, but part of the amazing thing of this game is the massive creativity the players put into it.

On the lobby page, you’re greeted with avatars of Steam friends who also own the game (which is neat) as well as top Workshop creators. You can check out their cool stuff, and download it to your game if you like.

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While I haven’t really played around with the Workshop yet, I really like that it’s so up front and highlighted. Similar to The Sims, when you start appealing to the creative players to make content for your game, you establish a game that can last a long(er) time.

While I’m no wiz at tycoon games, I didn’t have any problem jumping into the first scenarios, even without seeing any sort of tutorial. The game felt familiar, immediately bringing back Roller Coaster Tycoon vibes, and I got the jist of it quickly. Like any sim-building game, I did have a few issues (mostly with food stands and paths) that I had to figure out.

Also, why are there so many thieves in all of my parks? Sheesh. I could hire nothing but security and I’d never get a happy balance!

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I didn’t get into building my own coaster yet, as this is generally not my favorite part of these kinds of games. So, I’ve yet to see if it’s more intuitive than Roller Coaster Tycoon was in this aspect. I know you can make some really amazing rides, but I always just had trouble making a basic functioning coaster. XD

This is a game I could totally lose hours and hours in, and I spent some time with it during my Christmas holiday. I’d love to return to it sometime, but there’s just too many games on my list right now!

Check out these themed coasters below to see how amazing and creative some of the players are!

Recommended:

yes

Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Kingdom Rush

Game: Kingdom Rush
Time: 0.9 hours

I think I got Kingdom Rush in a bundle somewhere, and it was one of those games I wanted to just try to get off my “to play” list. I knew it had good ratings and that people generally had fun with it, so I went into playing this one with a pretty positive attitude.

What Is It?

The Steam page describes this as:

Get ready for an epic journey to defend your kingdom against hordes of orcs, trolls, evil wizards and other nasty fiends using a vast arsenal of towers and spells at your command! Fight on forests, mountains and wastelands, customizing your defensive strategy with different tower upgrades and specializations!

That actually sums it up pretty well.

I don’t often play tower defense games, but this one was pretty straightforward and simple to pick up. It introduced harder enemies with more skills as the game play progressed, but I never felt overwhelmed with new mechanics and critters.

It’s not too hard to grasp. You get a map, which changes with each scenario. On that map you have a point to defend, positions to place towers and spawn points where enemies appear.

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Different towers produce different types of troops, which you can upgrade using gold that you earn from defeating enemies. You can also place reinforcements and order troop positions. I played at a very easy level, but I can sense how this could get challenging at a higher difficulty.

You can eventually hire heroes, which get stronger and level up as the scenarios play out. And really… that’s all there is to say for this one. Cute little tower defense, cute art style, different levels of difficulty so you can play what you enjoy. Overall, good fun.

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I’d like to put some more time into this game, but I have a feeling other games are going to override this one in terms of time. I know there’s a mobile version of Kingdom Rush out there, and I think this would probably be an excellent little pick up and play for on the go.

Recommended?

yes

Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Dog Sled Saga

Game: Dog Sled Saga
Time: 5.5 hours

This was a surprise Christmas gift that has been sitting on my wishlist since last year, back when I first heard about it and read the strong, positive reviews. I absolutely didn’t expect to be spending my Christmas building up a team of adorable pixel pups and racing them. But it was perfect.

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The game decorated for the holidays, too!

What is it?

The game’s page describes it as:

As a rookie musher, foster a dogsledding team whose skills will grow if they’re treated right. Week by week, get to know your dogs’ unique traits, and carve your story into the trails of the Mount St. Something region.

Dog Sled Saga has a pick-up-and-play dogsled racing. Each dog’s speed is hindered by hunger. Lob a limited supply of food to them to keep at full speed. Hazards on the track await.

This is a very basic overview of what to expect. I won’t say the game is extremely deep, but it does have some interesting systems (hiring workers, dog breeding) that you can dive into if you want.

The basis of the game is putting together a team, caring for them to keep stress levels down, and balancing the care with training to keep their skills sharp. Each dog has hidden special traits, abilities, likes and flaws that you only learn over time.

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Just loook at this faaace! Who’s a good boy?

Racing is the major aspect of the game, and the mechanics are pretty simple. The dogs move forward on their own, but become slower as they tire. You feed them snacks to motivate them again. Hold down the mouse button, which places a moving arrow indicator over your team, and time it so that you toss food to the right dog at the right time. It really takes a little practice to get used to, but isn’t that hard.

Sometimes dogs get tangled in the ropes and sometimes you need to adjust how far apart dogs are. Aside from that, you may have to avoid obstacles on the track and watch out for annoying trees that intercept your food toss. That’s really about it.

As your dogs earn “Perfect” food catches — which is totally up to the player getting the tossing time correct — they level up and their endurance increases. Your dogs also increase in fame for doing cool things, which brings sponsorship opportunities.

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As you start racing in higher leagues, the difficulty increases and you get more dogs on your team to manage.

I liked that the game saves after every day, so you can pick it up and put it down to play in quick bouts. Even the races are pretty short. So it’s something you can make progress in short gaming sessions if you need to.

There’s also a short story mode — nothing that’s going to change your world, but it exists, so don’t knock it. And there’s a rival racer who annoys you as you move up the ranks. It’s rewarding to beat him when he tries to pass you at the last moment in a race. I’m curious about who he is, though.

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And you, too, can have a Schnauzer named BOOMCHICKEN!

I’ve only just qualified for the 3rd league, which has increased my dogs to 4 in a team. I can certainly see how things will get more challenging from here. At the same time, there’s a really laid-back quality to the game. Once you get into a groove, and your dogs are buffed and making time, it’s relaxing and fun to play.

Overall, I’m having a great time with this game. I kinda knew I would. I still have a lot to unlock (like breeding), and lots of racing ahead of me.

If you enjoy cute pixel management games and think racing sled dogs sounds like a fun concept, check it out. You might enjoy it, too!

Recommended:

yes

Yes, if you enjoy this type of game.

 

Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Winter Sale & 2018 Goals

So how has your Steam Winter Sale gone this year? My wishlist is… quite a bit lighter than it was going in. In my defense, I only bought two games this sale: Planet Coaster and SOMA.

Many of the other great titles I got were Christmas gifts from friends. Thank you!!

I’ve been really excited about my new game list, and I’ve put a bunch of time into gaming over this 4-day weekend! I have lots to blog about… but first, I wanted to take a moment to note my new Steam goals for 2018.

New Statistics

The first thing I want to note is that the Steam Calculator has just changed how they display statistics this past week. It puts the numbers in a slightly more positive light… but it still takes some getting used to.

Previously, the site would tell you “you haven’t played this percent of games”. For me, this percent was something like 53%. I was trying to make this number lower.

Now, the site tells you “you have played this percent of games.” It tells me that I’ve played 47% of games… and now I want to make this number higher.

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It’s still pretty bad.

Yeah, it means the same thing. Like I said, it’s a more positive spin… you want to increase our number instead of decreasing it.

My goal for 2018 is to get this metric above 50%. I’d really love to shoot for 60% this year. I’m not sure how viable that is. It depends on how many new games I get.

Playing Those Games

I honestly haven’t bought a lot of new Steam games this year, compared to the past. But every game I’ve bought this year, I’ve played for at least a little while. 

This excludes some games, such as stuff I bought in bundles that I never activated, or stuff that came from old bundles that I just recently activated. I also tried to play all my gifted games, but I don’t think I’m going to achieve that before the new year.

So my express goal for 2018 is that if I buy a Steam game, I play it. Like, preferably right when I buy it.

No more picking a bunch of games on sale and just stashing them away untouched. This is also good to do because there’s limitations on return time… So it’s better to go ahead and try a new game than to leave it sitting in your library only to find it’s a dud way past return time.

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I’m also cutting back on bundles as much as possible. I still have a bunch of Humble Bundle games I need to sort through — either giving away the keys I don’t want or finally activating them. I really don’t need to keep buying more. A number of keys I get now days are duplicates anyhow.

So, those are my steam goals as I roll into a new year. Let’s not even talk about the growing backlog I have on my Switch… or on GoG…

Ahem.

How’s your Steam Winter sale going? Pick up anything interesting?

 

Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Towns

Game:  Towns
Time: 12 mins

You look at my time played. You ask, “How can you write a review about a game you’ve only played for 12 minutes, Wren?”

My answer is: “Sometimes, you just know in the first 12 minutes.”

Here’s the thing. I adore simulation and city builder games. I’m not the best at them, but I will sit and happily be amused by them for hours on end. I’ve actually owned this game for quite a while and had it installed, the icon sitting on my desktop for months. I read the mixed reviews and thought, “I’m sure it can’t be that bad.”

Well… sometimes the reviews are right.

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What Is It?

Towns describes itself as this:

The game brings a fresh new take on the city building/management genre by introducing many RPG features. In Towns you manage a settlement on top of an active dungeon. Instead of playing the hero who delves deep into the dungeon, how about playing the town that houses and caters to the hero’s needs?

Now this sounds like a really cool idea. I don’t know how close this version of the game gets to reaching that description, because the graphics, UI and gameplay turned me off in the first 12 minutes. I hate to be down on someone else’s hard work, but I’m going to be honest in this write-up.

I am not a graphics snob. I will play a pixel game just the same as a beautiful 3D rendered game. Some of my favorite games of all time are cutesy, retro pixel type games. And while I won’t say the graphics in Towns were terrible, the whole package together just accents how clunky the game is.

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So, look at this. The UI is a major sticking point for me. You have buttons on both sides and the bottom that fold out into menus that obscure your playing screen from every direction. This, on top of the graphic design, quickly dropped me back in the early 90s before streamlining your UI was a thing.

And boy, was it complex to navigate. Not in a good way.

My biggest complaint was that when you instructed something to happen, you never knew if the game actually registered it. For instance, the tutorial asked me to build up the walls of that unfinished house in that screenshot up there.

I’d click to place the wall and nothing would happen. I’d click again. Nothing would happen. Then, eventually, after clicking multiple times, one of the villagers would come and place the wall. After going through this several times, block by block, it felt like a huge waste of my time to jump through hoops to do something that should have been easy to accomplish.

I’d hate to see what would happen if you tried something more complex. When it told me I needed to build scaffolding for the next level of walls, that’s when I gave up.

Add to that the fact that the game works in several layers. Not sure how to describe this… Basically, there’s a ground layer, then as you scroll your mouse wheel back, you go a block higher, then a block higher, then a block higher. So, I’m guessing in order to build walls taller, you have to make sure you’re on the right layer.

This looks something like this:

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See how the area is mostly grayed out? That indicates it’s on the layer below the one you’re targeting. In fact, it goes as far as to tell you that you’re targeting “air” itself.

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No… just no. Why is this even a thing?

So, ultimately? I’ve spent more time writing this post about why you shouldn’t play this game than I did actually playing the game. Sometimes, gamer instincts just tell you.

And while Towns is currently in the Steam Sale…

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…I don’t know that I could recommend it even for less than $4… I think there are plenty of other games at this price point that would be much more enjoyable, and are currently being supported/developed.

But, I mean, if you’re hardcore into town building, maybe you’ll like it?

Recommended:

no

I don’t pay your sub. Do what you want to do. 😉

Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge, Uncategorized

Steam Challenge: Corporate Lifestyle Simulator

Game: Corporate Lifestyle Simulator
Time: 30 mins

I don’t even remember where I got this game. It might have been a freebie. It might have been part of a bundle. I shoved it under the “clear” category in my Steam Library, which indicates I intended to fire it up for a few minutes, play a little bit, and remove it, all in the name of getting a sub-par game off my “unplayed” Steam library list.

That’s actually not what happened at all.

I’m not much into arcade shooters, but I fired this game up and it had me laughing long enough to play through the whole first section. There’s even a bit of a storyline that goes with it, though a funny and messed up storyline.

What Is It?

Corporate Lifestyle Simulator describes itself as:

Battle your way through corporate architecture and brain dead, buzzword-spewing, middle managers using office supplies as weapons to work through your Jungian shadow issues…

Fight back against the forces of tyranny and liberate your fellow coworkers from the oppressive evil that dominates them…

Smash ALL THE THINGS!

And… that pretty much covers it.

You can never quite tell if it’s a zombie apocalypse or if Big Brother Corporation finally consumed one too many souls, leaving the managers brain-eating zombies. And that’s just fine. Part of the joke and appeal of the game is that you’re an office worker fighting off these managers as they groan things like “Synergy” and “On My Radar” and “Core Competency” as they shuffle along.

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You pick up weapons from every day things around the office, and help rescue your co-workers, who fight along side you as you move from stage to stage. Each stage allows you to bust up just about everything in the office… which feels real good after a long day at the office.

Sometimes, there are specific things you have to do to clear a stage, and those are generally mapped out at the beginning. Like there was one that asked you to not destroy too many items in the office. That one was hard. 🙂

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There are funny little cutscene story pieces, which are super easy to skip (as I discovered) between the stages. These don’t last long and are somewhat roughly voice acted… but I almost wonder if that’s on purpose.

Also, there are boss fights.

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Oh, and when you die, you get often funny but inappropriately attributed quotes to famous writers/people.

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Also, the music was pretty jammin’.

So… uh… do I recommend it?

It really depends on if you enjoy this kind of game. For $4.99, it’s a “cute” little shooter/bash-em-up with a good sense of humor. Definitely a good way to take your stress out after a hard day at the office.

Chances are, you can pick this up as part of a bundle somewhere down the line, however. You might already have it, in fact. If you do, and you need a little diversion, give it a whirl.

Recommend:

question
Maybe