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The Forbidden Codex of The Pink Beyond - A Sqrl's Journal

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July 21st, 2018


06:10 pm - Ongoing: More Warframe. Mwarframe.
I've been playing an awful lot of Warframe and it's time to write some more about it. Just some scattered notes, you can skip this post comfortably if you don't care.

Under here.Collapse )

SO YOU KNOW. It's the MMO experience, except I'm soloing.

Good game so far.
I could not tell you what the plot is.
I'm shooting a lot of lumpy space russians and dudes with Alienware computers on their heads. Also the Flood is here. Does Bungie know the Flood moved out? No one tell Bungie. Shh.

If the plot shows up I'll make a spoiler post so everyone knows what it is, okay?
Okay.

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July 20th, 2018


11:10 am - Recordkeeping: Out There Somewhere COMPLETE
This was pretty good.

It starts off as a side-scrolling arcade space shooter, which has kind of clunky controls and doesn't feel very good to play, but that's okay because you promptly get shot down and your little bubble-headed astronaut dude has to use his teleport gun to solve puzzle screens.

Is there a name for the ... like, C64-style, ZX Spectrum-style, this-game-style, You Have To Win The Game-style, VVVVV-style "single screen platformer that connects to other single screen platformer areas and they all have pithy names at the top of the screen" genre? Because there should be something way the hell shorter than that.

Anyway you bop along finding items and solving puzzles, and then you fight the boss, and he's like "WE'LL SETTLE THIS IN SPACE!" and you go back to space and have to do more godawful space shooter until you win.

But all the parts in the MIDDLE are good, they're just sandwiched in kind of a bland wad of shooter gameplay. I had a fun time with this. Good music, good jumping. Thumbs up. It's like 99 cents, I can't complain.

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July 19th, 2018


07:08 am - Recordkeeping: Framed 1 & 2 COMPLETE x2
Hideo Kojima called Framed 1 his game of the year for... some year, I forget when. Apparently it really did deserve it.

The thing about the Framed games is they're puzzles you solve by moving comic book panels around. Narrative flow is important, but less important than continuity of movement. Every panel carries the movement that was happening right before it, and will flow into whatever's happening right after it, logic occasionally be damned.

This would look SO stupid in print, but works in a game. It has a few moments where I was going "Oh, that's very clever!" and "What kind of nonsense is THAT?" at the same time.

Framed 2 does everything the first game does but even harder. It's worth playing both.

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July 14th, 2018


08:42 pm - Recordkeeping: Snail Trek 3 and 4 COMPLETE X2
...wow uh these got bleak.
Okay, kind of. There's still a somewhat lighthearted tone 'til the end, but...

...wow.

As these are parts 3 and 4 in a series, that's all I can say without spoilers. The puzzles are a bit more obtuse, things are a little scaled up, and an entire civilization is at stake.

I wonder if there'll be a Snail Trek: The Next Generation. Or Voyager, maybe. (Deep Shell 9?)

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July 11th, 2018


08:39 am - Recordkeeping: Warframe ONGOING
Y'ever have one of those things where you enjoy it, but you don't know or really understand WHY you enjoy it, or what makes you come back to it? Where it has a weird, inexpressable quality you can't deny, but it's also just "not quite right" enough that you walk away and give up for a while before it draws you back in?

I started playing Warframe in 2013. I know this because I have a few Steam achievements for the game, basic things like "pick up 1000 credits" or "change the color of your suit", and they're dated Nov 27th, 2013.

My next achievement, "pick up 10,000 credits" is dated March 1st of 2015. After that there's "play for 2 hours", which is marked March 24, 2016. I get "play for 10 hours" in June 2017. Around that date is where I start stopping in regularly. I have now played 67 hours.

When I came to Warframe in 2013 it was a god damn mess of a game. I didn't think it was worth anyone's time, let alone mine. At some point through the cultural grapevine I must've heard "It's gotten so much better" and decided to check in again in 2015. It probably had, but it was still this weird awkward third-person shooter and ehhhh I had other stuff to do.

Something kept me coming back, and by now I have to admit: It's got some of the most fluid movement options in gaming, it has a unique visual aesthetic, and there's nothing else like it on the market. Plus it's genuinely free as long as you have time to pump into the game.

The problem with Warframe, I've decided, is that at no point does it ever effectively inform you how to play Warframe, and it at no point makes an effort to hide that it has a cash shop. A new player will come in and be baffled by all the Space Ninja Verbosity and sneering bad guys and so on, then they'll look at the market and see nothing but "buy the weapon/warframe/advancement tool" and they'll go "Oh." and then they'll quit.

Which makes sense. So here's what Warframe is and how you play it:

Warframe is a space ninja third-person-shooter. Because you are a space ninja, you can roll, superjump, run on walls, run up walls, airdive, glide, and execute other such manuevers that wave a middle finger at the laws of physics.

You're wearing a cool-ass space ninja suit that gives you superpowers. There are like thirty-some suits in the game and they run the gambit from your basic lightning zappy dude to more interesting and creative ideas, like channeling a heart of glass, your love of PBS and fairy queens, or just being really good at MIDI sequencing and Guitar Hero.

As a space ninja, various factions around the universe dislike your physics-defying antics. That's okay, you can kill them and take their stuff in the honorable space ninja tradition. You have a vast amount of freedom in how you do this. You can be a loud space ninja and come flying at people through the air with a quad-barreled shotgun and a pistol so large it looks like it should dislocate the shoulder of the dude next to you when you fire it, or you can play it quiet and use a space bow and arrow or some throwing knives.

Alternately while others study the gun, you can study the blade. Yes, you can run straight through machine gun fire deflecting bullets and then stab as many dudes as you like. You can also use staffs, halberds, nunchucks, greatswords, spears, fist-claws, just plain punching and kicking the hell out of peoples, and I'm pretty sure I saw an axe in the shop in case you want to get up to some of that Kung Fu Hustle business. I'm not here to judge, because it is GOOD TO HAVE OPTIONS.

Actually you want to have lots of options because of something called Mastery. Every single gun, bow, sword and superpowered ninja suit has its own experience bar, and your own experience level is tied to how many things you've mastered.

That's where we get into both the best and worst thing about Warframe: It is the grindiest game human culture has ever devised. You always want to be on the lookout for blueprints you can use to make more suits, more weapons, and that means materials, and that means running missions to get the materials, and that means fighting your way to the parts of the solar system where they drop the materials you need, and THAT means clearing a lot of missions on your way to a boss fight that drops new blueprints, and now you need more materials again.

This is where a lot of people look at the store and conclude the game is a raging cash grab. ... But there's the option to buy things directly from the store for real money on tab one, and most people don't flip to tab two, where they sell the blueprint that tells you exactly how you can make one yourself.

You can pay in money, or you can pay in time.

I think that honesty might be what keeps me coming back to Warframe. It's a soloable free MMO that just demands your time, and does so well enough that when I'm tempted to buy something from the store I always stop and check the wiki first, because I KNOW I can put it together myself if I really try. At the same time, I need that wiki because the game itself isn't interested in explaining itself, because if you're the type of person who will walk away over a clonky UI you aren't the kind of person who will stick with Warframe for the Eternal Grind.

I keep walking away, but I keep coming back too.

At least I feel like I've explained why, a little bit.

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12:25 am - Recordkeeping: This Strange Realm of Mine COMPLETE
This game did a 180 kickflip-to-edgelord so fast my head is still spinning. Like... it was rolling along pretty good. You visit a world from the hub, you get a lot of poetry and philosophy, and you maybe bring someone with an interesting viewpoint back to the hub when you come home.

Then the ending hits and -wow man-. Very depressive stuff.

This could be taken as pretentious or artistic, depending on your bent. I'm inclined to say it's strongly artistic but very personal-feeling.

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July 9th, 2018


10:29 pm - Recordkeeping: Killer Instinct 2013 COMPLETE
I say complete, but I've finished two story modes and played a bunch of Vs PC and the gatcha campaign mode. Still, I did finish story modes, I did get a credits roll.

First off: Killer Instinct in the 90s, in the arcades or on your N64: I hated it. Young Sqrl, blessed be those bad opinions, thought it was like Nintendo totally missing the point of Mortal Kombat and making a game where you just hammer buttons as fast as you can.

After playing this update... yeah the character designs are sorta edgy, yeah the game CAN come down to "mash as fast and hard as you can" if you have assists turned on...

...but you actually can play it like a real fighter. Or you can embrace the 90s, crank the (amazing, mostly Mick Gordon) soundtrack way up and just MASH IT OUT YEAAAAAHHHHHHHH ULTRAAAA COMBOOOOOOOOOOOOO

There's a lot to KI2013 now that it's "done". There's a weird gatcha-style campaign mode where you earn currency for buffs and try to stop an extradimensional gargoyle from conquering the world. There's two different story modes, there's a "create a shadow character" mode, there's obviously online multiplayer but who cares, and it's all wrapped up in a pretty strong package.

Fighting games are good actually, I guess.

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July 7th, 2018


06:38 am - Recordkeeping: Meanders COMPLETE
Meanders is one of those shiny little jumping puzzle games, along the lines of Refunct which I played before. The difference is that while Refunct took about an hour, Meanders took several and actually put up a fight AND I didn't even successfully 100% it because it's too big.

In Meanders you grab a neon-colored ball and hop through levels made up of simple platforms rising out of an endless ocean. Bouncing the ball off various items either collects them or opens up new sections of the level for you to jump to. There's about 40 levels, several of which are optional on a playthrough. (There's route forks.)

Meanders starts off really relaxing, but eventually gets -pretty darn hard- in a 3D platforming sort of way, particularly if you try to collect all of the balloons and bubbles. There're also unlockable "Dry Souls" (you die if you touch water) and "One Shot, One Hit" (any ball you throw MUST pop a bubble, hit a balloon or trigger a crystal or you lose) modes and while I was amused by the toggles for those in the menu at first...

If I were trying to PLAY like that, this game would be a recipe for a salt-crusted rage-quit roast. As it is, it's fun but don't stress out too hard over what you're missing.

Still, it was fun and cheap and there's a menu toggle to turn on Dragons. Any game is better when you can open the menu and add extra dragons to it.

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July 5th, 2018


06:15 pm - Recordkeeping: Retro Game Crunch's 'End of Line', 'Paradox Lost' COMPLETE X2
So these were more ambitious but also had some interesting issues.

Paradox Lost is a metroidvania sort of game, big on exploring somewhat boxy maps. The gimmick is that your gun can warp you to the past, present, or future if you bounce a shot off a crystal and back into the gun. This in practice means you have to navigate between three maps that sort of resemble each other, and while this was a huge pain in the ass at the start of the game it eased back a little as the game progressed.

My biggest problem is that 100%ing does nothing. My second biggest problem is that the button bound to "view map" in Assassin's Creed Origins was here bound to "kill yourself", so I would suddenly drop dead because I got the urge to look at where I was. Oops.

These are slightly ironic issues, given the next game:

End of Line is a block-pushing, vaguely Lolo-esqe puzzler where your goal is for your little Mega Man style robot to die without being brought back by a repair device. In practice this means "smash all the devices" is high on your priority list, meaning "get to them first" is the basis of the puzzle screens.

Unfortunately, there are optional objectives, and it's very easy to miss one. The only thing you can do about that is to play the game over from the beginning again, or watch the 'good' ending on Youtube. I did the second one.

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July 4th, 2018


12:13 pm - Recordkeeping: Retro Game Crunch's 'Wub Wub Wescue', 'GAIA-ttack' COMPLETE X2
Two more games from this retro collection.

GAIA-ttack only twigged with me when I realized it was supposed to be a four-player multiplayer PvE Smash clone. Your small elemental sprite (in single player you control a different one each world, I don't know how it works in MP) appears at the bottom of an arena and enemies will stream in. You knock the hell out of those enemies with a simple moveset and you climb up as the screen scrolls vertically. Eventually you'll reach a boss, which you defeat.

It was cute and I liked the sprite designs but not hugely engaging. Air-juggling bosses was fun though.

Wub Wub Wescue however was a stone-cold butthole of a game that I oscillated rapidly between loving and hating. It's a very early 1980s-style single-screen puzzle-platformer, along the lines of something like Donkey Kong Jr. or the like. Your pug wants to rescue its owner from the clutches of evil jungle people. To do this, you navigate five acts of something like six screens each.

Your pug can awoo songs from record players scattered around the jungle, each of which negates or alters one hazard: One song puts deadly snakes to sleep, one song makes bats carry you instead of kill you, one slows time to make the timing window on vanishing platforms infuriating instead of impossible, etc.

By the later levels, with tons of hazards salted around the screen and a single sane path between them, I would glare and huff and then stop and check the timing on something and I can do it faster, better, right there if I just ... no that's another death because of the STUPID ARROWS that was my fault try again...

It was tightly designed, infurating, and I never want to play it again but that doesn't make it bad. That was the exact experience it was trying for, I suspect.

But I still never want to play it again.

This seems to be becoming a series. There's three games left I haven't played, let's see if I decide to beat one of those next, or what.

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