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    Mass Effect: Andromeda (PS4)    by   jp       (May 21st, 2024 at 18:23:03)

    I've hit 20 hours and going strong.

    I've already rendered the first planet 100% viable! (I think this was ahead of schedule because I've gotten messages about going back to the planet to see what's going on, but I've already been, and things are great!)

    I've also uncovered the "truth" about the kett and their abductions of these other aliens whose name I forget. Supposedly we're all friends now and I think I have to go find another planet to settle? As in, I only have one colony - and I think, based on the empty spaces in the UI that I'm supposed to eventually get to 4? It seems like a lot!

    That being said, I've been pleasantly surprised by how non-formulaic the game is. I was half expecting to do a whole thing again on the 2nd planet, but it was very different and varied in such a way that it wasn't boring. So, different activities and such. Though, no access to the little rover which is pretty fun to drive around (and, it's surprisingly hard to get it stuck on the scenery or put out of commission, and trust me, I've tried some wild stuff and it works just fine).

    There are also these "away" missions I can send people on and then collect rewards (if they succeed) in 4 hours or whatever. I'm torn on these - I like getting more resources, but I'm not a huge fan of having to spend a few minutes going to the place in the ship where I can access the interface for those missions, assign new ones, and so on. It starts to feel a bit like busywork...

    I'm still very much on the "when this gets boring I'll bail" because I feel like I've gotten a reasonably good understanding of the game (even if I haven't maximized combos and nonsense with the different powers and combat abilities)...

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    Creaks (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 21st, 2024 at 07:48:19)

    I haven't played an Amanita Design game in a long time, and what a treat this was. I'd never heard of Creaks, but it was in some puzzle game bundle I purchased a while back. It’s got the exceptional art and music you expect from Amanita. The puzzles are creative and the concept is original. In Creaks, you are a guy who finds a hidden passage behind his bedroom wall. He turns on his flashlight and goes through the crawlspace. Turns out that below his room is a sprawling cavern with a massive tower, wherein live all manner of strange creatures. The anthropomorphic birds are the main ones, and they’ve got a problem. A giant monster is crawling around the outside of the tower, destroying everything. The birds are trying to figure out a way to stop the monster. You stealthily follow the birds down, down, down, watching what they are up to, solving puzzle rooms as you go. Eventually, they discover your presence and enlist you to help destroy the monster.

    The puzzles in Creaks are great! Over time, you’ll be introduced to various mechanics, but they basically involve manipulating creatures and light sources, which when shining on a creature, change them into furniture. The first puzzle creatures you encounter are dogs. The dogs activate when you get close and bark at you. When you get too close, they chase you. If you jump off a ledge or go down a ladder, they’ll stand there barking for a minute, then trot back to where they were. So, for example, if you need to get around a dog, you might get it to chase you, climb down a ladder, and climb up a ladder now behind it while it stands barking at the ledge you dropped from. Or, if you lure it to a light source, then turn on the light, the dog will change into a chest of drawers, which (as long as it stays in the light!) you can move or climb on.

    You’ll see jellyfish creatures, which have rules governing their constant movement; goat creatures, which run away from you if you go near, and which otherwise will move toward patches of grass to graze. Dogs will also chase goats. Then there are these weird plant (?) creatures. One type copies your movements and the other type does the opposite of your movements (e.g., you step left, it steps right). And so on. You are generally trying to position the creatures onto buttons or beneath light sources such that you can get past them and move to the next “scene.”

    There are something like 50 scenes. Not only is the puzzle design excellent, but the larger environment design is cool too. As you’ll see, the scenes are all interconnected in the tower. The difficulty is just right. Some of the puzzles had me scratching my head and then feeling clever once I figured out the trick. I got really stuck only one time, but put the game down for a week, played Firework, came back, and with a fresh perspective solved the scene in 5 minutes.

    Highly recommended for a creative, charming, chill puzzle game.

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    Firework (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 21st, 2024 at 07:04:53)

    This is a point-and-click psychological horror game from a Chinese developer that one of my friends recommended. He's studying representations of traditional Chinese religious practices in games. This one has a sort of shaman woman, whom we never see, and spirits. The main character, a rookie police officer, can communicate with the dead, and he does so as he attempts to uncover the mystery behind a fire in a funeral home and the death of an entire family.

    The story was the strongest part of the game. Although it could be confusing at times, I liked how the protagonist occasionally recapped what was going on as he talked about the case with the teacher of the child who died, who was also investigating for her own reasons. One reason that the story got confusing is because of what I don't know about Chinese folklore. I kept thinking, "A person from China would have all the cultural context and knowledge to understand this," whereas I lacked such background assumptions. This might have been why the humans or spirits were doing some of the things they were doing, various symbolism, the significance of the grandparents going to see the shaman woman, how she or those visits might have been viewed, and so on. In the end, the story is really, really sad!

    The gameplay in this one is straightforward. There is nothing challenging about it. Puzzles are easy. The environments are tiny. You won't get lost or stumped. You generally navigate one or a few screens at a time, interact with a few interactable objects, perhaps pick up an item or two, perhaps solve a puzzle. All of the objects and puzzles affect something on the same or nearby screen, and it's very linear. In typical psychological horror game fashion, the environment changes (e.g., new object appears, color shifts, spirits appear, phone rings, etc.) in generally unnerving ways. There aren't many scares per se, but certainly the creepiness factor is present. The one novel mechanic was a camera that you can use to invert colors in certain places, which changes how the rooms look and reveals new areas or objects that you need to progress.

    Overall, the game kept me engaged through the intriguing story. Gameplay was slow-paced and easy, and it's good that the story consistently moved forward through exploring the environments (mostly the deceased family's house) or else I would have gotten bored. Not essential, but neat game. Now, I've got to talk to my friend about it!

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    Balatro (PC)    by   jp       (May 19th, 2024 at 22:05:30)

    Having spent the last few months playing a lot of deckbuilders, and then hearing a lot of buzz around this one..well, I had to try it out! (fortunately I got it for my birthday as well, yay!)

    And, is it fun? Yes.
    Is it hard? Yes.

    I got really lucky with wins in 2 of my first 3 games. Really lucky. But, now I have a better idea of how the game works, what's good, not so good, and when to invest in different things.

    As far as deckbuilding games go it's got a few unusual things going for it...

    1. Your deck starts out really large! (a regular deck of playing cards) Generally it's pretty hard to make it smaller - there are a few options you might get, but it's not a general/typical option as you play the game.

    2. You can easily add cards to your deck, but mostly you want to upgrade either the cards themselves (not THAT easy, but doable) or (more often?) the value you get from the different poker hands you do. So, increasing the multipliers/base value of two pairs might be better than improving one card that may not appear in a hand all that often.

    3. You can sell your jokers - these all have different effects and, if you get a n interesting one at the start you can (hopefully) lean into it and shift your deck in the direction that takes the most advantage of it. (and then hopefully pick up other jokers that "double down" on that option). For example, a joker that gives you money when playing face cards coupled with a joker that treats all cards as face cards is good.

    So far I've won with a few different decks (there are starter decks that have a different effect) and I'm trying to get the green one to work! (you get money for not playing all the hands). I thought I had it when I last played earlier today - but no luck.

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    Mass Effect: Andromeda (PS4)    by   jp       (May 13th, 2024 at 17:44:13)

    After an "ooh, that was close" moment where I almost bailed (there was a door that bugged out and didn't open, wasted a lot of time backtracking to figure what I missed, went online saw that it was supposed to open and quit the game, next day, when I loaded again I was thankfully at the door and it worked), I must say that I'm really having fun with this. Mostly I'm enjoying the fantasy the game provides: lead a community in creating a settlement in an undiscovered (to you) galaxy.

    So far I've created the first "foothold" on a planet (a science base instead of a military one) after "magically" (deus ex machina moment for sure) being able to interface with an ancient(?) alien technology that somehow near instantly controls the weather making everything work. There's apparently a whole network of these alien structures across different planets and I imagine I'll be investigating more of them!

    Doing this unlocked a new mechanic/system in the game where I can automate some resource generation because there are enough "viability points" (well explained in the game's narrative!) to bring out a group of people from cryo-hibernation to continue working on settling.

    I think I'm a little over 8 hours in... I have no idea how much longer I'll engage or id this will start to drag/grind a bit? We'll see..

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    What is GameLog?

    GameLog hopes to be a site where gamers such as yourself keep track of the games that they are currently playing. A GameLog is basically a record of a game you started playing. If it's open, you still consider yourself to be playing the game. If it's closed, you finished playing the game. (it doesn't matter if you got bored, frustrated,etc.) You can also attach short comments to each of your games or even maintain a diary (with more detailed entries) for that game. Call it a weblog of game playing activity if you will.

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    Spiritfarer (PC)    by   dkirschner

    Cute, great art. Looking forward to this because I usually don't go for management or sim games. ---------- Became tedious after a while.
    most recent entry:   Monday 24 May, 2021
    Cute, charming, wonderful audio and visuals. This is a game about relationships, death, loss, love--hits a lot of emotions. I haven't ever played this much of a management game like this. But despite all that I did like about it, and how interesting and engaging it was at first, like all management games I've played it still became tedious and boring.

    The premise of Spiritfarer is that you, Stella, are the new Spiritfarer. You help spirits resolve issues and then escort them through the Everdoor into whatever lies beyond. The game world is set on an ocean, so you captain a ship. You sail from island to island, point of interest to point of interest, exploring, talking, gathering resources. On your boat, you build farms, foundries, homes, kitchens, and all the other buildings you need to manage spirits and convert raw materials into processed items, with which you, of course, spend on upgrading the ship so that you can process the next type of item.

    I am retiring the game after about 10 hours (it's roughly 25 hours just for the main story on Howlongtobeat). I have four or five spirits on my ship, plus a few sheep. I've explored what looks like about 25% of the map and gotten maybe 25% of the ship's upgrades. I haven't escorted any spirit to the Everdoor, but have done a bunch of quests. What I love about this game are the spirits and their stories. I also love exploring islands. As you get more spirits, you learn new exploration abilities (double jump, glide, etc.), which lets you find new items. I like that loop, the story/platforming/exploration loop.

    What I dislike about the game, at this point, is the resource gathering and crafting loop, the general "management" aspect of the game. It was novel at first, building all these buildings and learning how to do all the little minigames to saw trees, weave wool, and smelt iron. It was cute cooking all the food and learning which type of food was this or that spirit's favorite. Now that I understand the loops, the novelty is worn off, and it's just "I have to keep feeding these damn spirits to keep them happy" and "I have to keep feeding these damn sheep so I can shear them for wool and so that they won't eat my crops" and "I have to water these rows of seeds over and over to get food or linen or whatever to cook it or weave it to get the next thing to get the upgrade to build the next thing to do the same thing with the next type of thing..."

    Keeping up with all the things on the ship is detracting from the joys of pursuing the upgrades, of exploring, and of progressing the spirits' journeys. I wish the ratio of the things I like to the ship management and resource gathering stuff was different. I'm glad I realized that instead of continuing to mindlessly click on ore. Maybe after finishing Prey recently, I am particularly sensitive to filler and don't feel like doing it. Anyway, I watched my first spirit go through the Everdoor on YouTube and it was neat, but I am sure I wouldn't have cared all that much, as I don't seem to have the emotional connection to the spirits' stories that people who love this game have. I will remember the cute interactions between Stella and her cat and Stella and the spirits. It's still a charming game, and I'm glad I spent some time with it.

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