How Can I Make This Better?

Schedule slip sucks. But while I keep working on my latest pieces, I’ve got a question for anyone that follows this blog- Any suggestions for sprucing up the page? I’ll admit it, I’m bad at making things aesthetically pleasing. I’ll be experimenting with some of the default layouts, but that only goes so far, so any feedback would be seriously welcome.

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10/22/16 Status Update

I think I need to revise my strategy. A number of the games I’ve been playing, I haven’t been able to reasonably review in the span of a week. There’s also the matter of, half the games I reviewed, I still want to play because I still haven’t seen everything they have to offer and I want to: Final Station, EDF, and a few others come to mind.

So apologies if my release schedule gets a little weird for a while, I’m trying to find a balance for all the stuff going on in life.

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Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair

Welcome back, today we’re covering Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair. It’s an updated re-release of Earth Defense Force 2025, and was released on Steam in July of this year, brought to us by Sandlot and D3 Publisher.


EDF 4.1 is the story of the return of the giant bugs and aliens that appeared in the original game. Just as it happened 7 years ago in-universe, Earth is under attack, and the Earth Defense Force stands ready to repel the intruders. Both sides have spent that time gearing up in anticipation for this battle.

Mechanically speaking, it’s a 3rd person shooter game with co-op. Imagine if Armored Core had a baby with Helldivers, combining intriguing build customization involving an impressive number of components with hammy performances and over the top combat. It also reminds me a bit of arcade-y titles like Warship Gunner and Gungriffon Blaze, with its power-up drops and stage structure. I’ll tell you outright, it’s an excellent combination.


Fencer is a pain to use… until you find out you can dash-cancel.

The gameplay of “Here are a hundred giant bugs and/or giant robots, go kill,” is surprisingly nuanced, with a good chunk of the story missions going into their interactions and showing scenarios in which your own troops are at a disadvantage. The earliest example is with the airborne units known as Wing Divers. The ability to evade most enemies and attacks by flying above the melee is great… Right until the giant webs come out or they’re otherwise faced with something that can out-range them. Better yet such moments fit the structure of the alien invasion movies that EDF mimics, where the humans think they’ve finally got the edge only for the invaders to have another ace up their sleeve.


Michael Bay, eat your heart out!

Anyway, you run a mission. Shoot up some aliens, listen to the hammy dialogue, pick up Armor crates to increase your maximum health and Weapon crates to give you more options for the next run. There’s also multiple difficulty settings, which influence the quality of the Weapon crates in addition to making enemies stronger and even adding more of them in later stages. You’ve got 4 classes to choose from in your search to find a fitting playstyle, including the “Has a gun for every occasion” Ranger and the “Clunky but powerful” Fencer. The Support class, Air Raider, is a bit impractical without more versatile firepower from other players or a large group of AI-controlled troops, but otherwise I quite like the roster. With ~80 missions running at 5-10 minutes a piece, the game manages to be both reasonably long-lasting and easy to pick-up and play for short periods.

It’s not perfect, though. Some weapons and tactics explicitly require teammates, through being impossible or unbearably impractical otherwise. Another point is that the weapons that drop are dependent on the difficulty and stage, so it can be hard to get, say, Air Raider weapons in a certain range when the missions in said range are rather impractical for their playstyle.


Air Raider often gets the short straw, is what I’m getting at here.

Getting back to the positives, the co-op elements are solid as well. Teammates can revive each other, albeit at a cost of their own health, and any loot crates picked up benefit the entire team, so a player can’t, accidentally or otherwise, hog all the stuff. The levels for Online unlock separately from the ones for Offline, though, and the aliens get a noticeable boost if you try to play Online alone. I guess that’s one way to encourage teamwork.



At least you can sing the EDF song together with the dialogue menu!

Going into the Presentation now, I’ll start by saying the translation is a little off. Not broken, just… you can tell it was translated. That’s not the end of the world when it’s already a cliche B movie in game form, though. Also, the interface is a little strange in that the WASD keys provide character movement and control of the menus, but you can always pull up the dialogue menu with the arrow keys, and it can be a little confusing until your brain mentally separates the two. For my last complaint on this section, levels with civilians are unpleasantly loud and obnoxious as the overlapping screams, wounded alien sounds, and gunfire threaten to destroy the player’s eardrums. On the upside, the world looks great with mostly bright, detailed stages full of equally detailed soldiers and bugs and robots. And, it should probably go without saying, but the weapons are incredibly satisfying in their impact, kicking bugs the size of tanks halfway down the street and/or pulping them in a bloody explosion.

So, that’s EDF 4.1. It’s $50 on Steam, and I’d say it’s a worthy purchase if you enjoy action-oriented gameplay, fussing with cool weapon systems, or getting past your arachnophobia with the assistance of a plasma-tipped pile bunker.

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FNaF: Sister Location- Quick Ramble

Note- I’ve only seen up to the start of Night 4 (Thanks Markiplier!), but I had to jump in and say something about this. Also, spoilers for the very first lose-able section of gameplay in Sister Location.

Welcome back. Gonna make this a quick one. If you remember one of my earlier posts back at the start of the Five Nights at Freddy’s craze, you’ll recall I was quite happy about this new direction in horror games. Yeah, there’s roughly a million fan-made spin-offs now (called it!), some outright terrible, but the series deserves credit for getting people interested in hidden story elements and horror games in to a level I’ve not seen in a long time. Now Scott Cawthon has released a new game in this universe, and I must say I quite like what I’ve seen so far. It feels like a culmination of all his previous efforts.

The series is not without it’s rough spots, I’ll be the first to admit. The repetition being one of the worst parts, which made sense in the first game given Scott’s limited resources, but for games 2-4, the whole “Five Nights” tradition seems like unnecessary padding. Especially once you factor in the inevitable “Bonus Night”, “Custom Night”, and “Custom Night with the difficulty cranked up so high the dev himself didn’t even think it possible” playthroughs. This is one of the first things addressed, in that the mechanics (again, up to what I saw) change every night, so you never feel completely comfortable with the situation you’re being thrown into. One might expect the resulting mini-games, for lack of a better term to feel thinly spread, but I think they were crafted with such care that the game doesn’t feel threadbare.

Let’s go into the first real challenge, the hiding space and the baby animatronic. You’re told the power must be reset. You start to worry when you hear that the security systems will be offline for the duration.  You feel silly at first, crawling under the desk, until you find that sheet of metal and pull it across the gap. It makes sense to that primitive part of your brain that hates the dark and thinks you’re safe from the monster under your bed as long as you can hide. You tell yourself “it can’t see me if I can’t see it.” Except it can. You see an eye through one of the holes in the metal. You look away, hoping it didn’t really see you. You hope until you hear the scraping and see the metal sheet being dragged back out of the way.

That is well-done horror. The first night makes you feel a little uneasy, stoking some fears will assuaging others. “At least there’s these big security panels between me and the animatronics.” Then that gets taken away, and you cling to that hiding hole and that sheet of metal because it’s still something. And just as intended, when the baby tries to pull the sheet away, you cling all the harder, afraid of losing that last, flimsy, token barrier between you and the nightmares because it’s all you have left. Even though the game over jump scare hasn’t really changed from the ones we’ve been getting since the first game. Let anyone who said this series is nothing but jump scares eat crow this day. It was never about the jump scares, it was about the atmosphere, it was about ratcheting up the tension further and further until anything would have the player jumping a foot in the air. That’s horror, if you ask me. Not zombies, not Slenderman-style pursuers, not 10 second flash lights in pitch black environments.



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Status Update 10/1/16

Blast, I’ve still been super busy. I was planning to get into Deadnaut’s spiritual Successor: “Fear Equation” this week, but I… well, was intimidated by the number of systems in play, that combined with accidentally skipping half the tutorial made me back off from it. I did find a way to replay said tutorial, so that’s on the list amongst many other reviews that are in varying states of done. I’m trying to get back to more consistent schedule, but I’m still encountering difficulties with work and such. I’ll see about getting something out this weekend but if I don’t, my apologies.

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Welcome back everyone. Today we’re reviewing Deadnaut, made by Screwfly Studios and released in November of 2014.


Deadnaut is a squad-based survival horror game set in the future, where mankind sets out for the stars and finds… an awful lot of derelict ships full of unspeakable horrors. Enter the Deadnauts, expendable troopers tasked with clearing the ships, hence the name. From your little command center back on the home ship, you kit out your team and monitor their progress as they sweep these abandoned vessels, four per campaign, with each campaign centered around a particular theme and resulting enemies. Your entire interface is a series of three screens: one for examining your troops, one for checking mission intel, and the main screen that shows a rough blueprint of the ship layout, kinda like the mapping screens in Armored Core. I have to say the game is very minimalist. Your troops and your opponents don’t even get character models, instead being represented with colored circles in missions and static images for their profile pictures.

“So,” you may say “I sit in a completely safe pod away from the action and watch some labelled dots jump around the screen? Doesn’t sound scary.” I didn’t think so either at first, but Deadnaut is great at building up the tension. The ambiance is great, with indecipherable noises echoing through the ship and no music to speak of. Occasionally the defense systems will attempt to jam your transmission, forcing you to route more power to, say, the audio feed. On top of this, your Deadnauts are extremely likely to make a mistake at the worst possible time.

And sometimes this happens.

And sometimes this happens.

And the thing is, you’re the reason they’re making these mistakes. You make the troop roster yourself before starting any campaigns. It uses a basic point-build system that takes points away for positive traits such as a higher innate Vigor score, but then grants more for giving your characters flaws. It is entirely possible to make a character without any weaknesses, but if you want any sort of above-average stats, you’ll have to give your soldiers some penalties to compensate. Better yet, many of these flaws are intermittent in their manifestation, so you can’t plan for when they’ll go off. I had one Deadnaut spontaneously stop taking orders right as I was trying to evacuate the squad from a damaged section of the ship. Another example is that a Deadnaut that keeps drawing attention to himself will make the entire squad feel more stressed and less happy to be around them, resulting in your crew not working at full capacity. They’ll chatter about stresses like that, objects in the environment like corpses, and thank each other or coyly ask for favors after surviving close calls.

In between runs, you trade the knowledge you’ve gathered from investigating corpses and downloading ship logs for new blueprints from Earth, allowing you to give your ‘nauts new suits to wield more powerful tools and weapons. You can also clone any ‘nauts that fell in battle so you still have a full squad, but their stats will shift and their genetic integrity will take a dive each time this happens.

The missions, layouts, enemy types employed, and logs all appear to be generated rather than custom built. This goes aways to keep the gameplay fresh, but the results don’t always make sense, like when I read a Captain’s Log entry about cutting off access to the sentinels to thwart potential saboteurs, and then the next entry was about bringing more of them online to protect the ship.


Alright, you know the drill by now: time to complain.

In theory, you learn about the enemies in your campaign through combat with them then equip your troops as needed, but the campaigns are so short that you’ll have a hard time gathering enough data to see the weaknesses of more than one or two. Upgrading equipment is also obnoxious because better weapons and tools require better suits to power them, which sucks when you have enough to get one but not the other. Occasionally, you’ll have a hard time clicking the drop-down menu to interact with an object in the environment, and this is the last thing you want when you’re trying to tweak the life support systems to weaken the dozen shambling horrors sitting outside the door. Last of all, there aren’t even all that many options for customizing your troops. You’ll have to take a good 2 or 3 flaws to get any decent stats, with many popping up repeatedly in your squad because the list of available traits is so short. And the only positive trait with some actual character is “Likeable” whereas the rest are generic stat bonuses.

I hesitate to call Deadnaut a great game, but the concept is new to me and I quite liked the grim setting and intentionally clunky mechanics (at least when they were intentionally clunky). Deadnaut is available on Steam for $10 if you’re interested. 2015-08-10_00001

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The Final Station

Welcome back everyone. Today we’re covering The Final Station, brought to us by Do My Best and tinyBuild, released at the end of August this year.


You play as a train operator in a world recovered from an enigmatic disaster known as “the visitation”, and now, as you take your train out on a supposedly routine run, it seems it’s come back for another round. As such, you are pressed into service for some vague mission that no one will elaborate on beyond “it’s important.”

The gameplay comes in two phases. In the first, you must manage the systems and passengers on the train. Control panels on different cars must be tended to, though only one needs to be managed for each leg of the journey. Passengers must be fed or they’ll start losing health. And you’ll want the passengers alive for the rewards granted for safely conveying them to their destinations, and for their chatter that helps provide more insight into the world while helping the time pass.


World’s ****ed, but sure let’s bicker amongst ourselves.

The second phase starts when you arrive at a station. Due to a previous accident, all trains are locked down upon arriving at a station, and you must disembark to retrieve the code for the blockers inhibiting your progress. You’ll also find more passengers, survivors of the ongoing disaster, as well as supplies to help you tend to them. While doing so, you must be prepared to face… well, we’re never really given a name for them. But they are there, and they want you dead. Some fights are sudden and unexpected, like when you open a door to see what’s on the other side. Other times, you’ll have a safe vantage point to view the mobs and try to plan a course of action and these sections feel more like puzzles than anything, as there will often be throwables such as explosive barrels placed nearby to even the odds. There’s a number of doors not related to the path to the blocker code, so you have to decide each time whether it’s worth the risk, as you could get the hordes mentioned prior, or you could get valuable supplies. Sometimes you’ll even get both.  You are at least given the option to restart from a checkpoint or even the beginning of the current station if you felt you burned through too many resources, as using that last medkit may mean a passenger is left to bleed out on the train car floor.

The presentation does a fine job of immersing you in the world. The ambient sound keeps you in a state of constant uneasiness, which is exactly the right mindset to be in when any door could have a dozen of them sitting behind it. The sprites are decidedly low res, but the environments detailed enough to compensate for it. It’s another instance of “beautiful but bleak” that I’ve been running into with my review titles lately.


This was not a fun experience, this particular bit.

The story can be tricky to follow, as even after reading every note and talking to every NPC, I wasn’t completely sure what was going on. But I did enjoy what I was able to piece together, so I think the devs did a good job on that front. I will warn you that this is a depressing game, and as such you might want to follow it up with milk and cookies or pictures of kittens or something.

Complaints time: The story has a nice crescendo and finale, but the gameplay doesn’t match it. The last couple scraps are pretty much the same as all the ones that came before, such that if you were only taking your cues from that aspect you wouldn’t know the story was wrapping up until it was already over. I wasn’t expecting a boss fight or massive horde per se, but ending the gameplay itself with a whimper made me regret working so hard to save up on ammo and medkits. A couple of the fights also felt rather unfair, giving you a big group to tackle and only a few seconds notice to do so.

So that’s The Final Station. At $15 for what was, for me, a 5 hour game, it may not be for everyone. That said, I believe this is one of those games that should be experienced for its intriguing story and unusual mechanics. It’s available on Steam if you’re interested.

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Rogue Trooper


20160907063446_1.jpgWelcome back everyone. Today we’re covering another old favorite of mine: Rogue Trooper, brought to us by Eidos and Rebellion in May 2006. It’s a game adaptation of a comic series revolving around an (almost) last-of-his-kind supersoldier, adapted to survive Nu Earth’s toxin atmosphere. The initial deployment of his unit was a complete disaster due to a traitor in the Souther ranks, and now Rogue and backup copies of his three aptly-named friends are on a mission to hunt down the man responsible.

At its core, Rogue Trooper is a Third Person Shooter with cover mechanics. Said mechanics are a little dated, especially without some sort of sprint function to cover distances, but still entirely serviceable. There’s plenty of cool weapons and special abilities to spice up the combat, though I didn’t get as much use out of them as I’d like, which I’ll get back to.


Norts are rather enthusiastic about heavy weaponry.

This comic series is adapted surprisingly well into a game. Rogue falls into this weird state of “alone, but not alone.” His three buddies are decidedly dead, but their personalities live on in special back-up chips originally implanted in their skulls, now slotted into his equipment. As such, you get all the banter of a fireteam of soldiers without any of the AI screw-ups to be concerned about. Nifty. They also grant helpful abilities, like the option to set Gunnar down on a tripod and tear up a group while you flank, and Bagman’s ability to salvage from corpses to construct munitions and weapon upgrades. The below-average difficulty cuts into the appeal of these tools, as the skill floor is so low that I accidentally blew through scenarios designed for them with standard shooter tactics. That could have used some fine tuning in my opinion.


Micromines: good for traps, good for dislodging bodies so you can loot them!

The salvaging mentioned prior is a major mechanic of this title. Several different objects like corpses and sentry guns and fallen drones can be salvaged for scrap. This scrap is spent to unlock new equipment such as grenades, and upgrade existing ones, including giving Rogue’s rifle bigger magazines with harder hitting rounds. You also use it to replenish your ammo, grenades, and medkits. I feel like this is another facet that could have been better optimized for a challenge, as I never found myself running out, but that’s probably because I picked the battlefield clean in every stage I played. This is even with Bagman’s overzealous auto-reload throwing away magazines with 2 rounds missing out of 40. I’ll also say that the game’s pattern of unlocking new gear doesn’t quite gel with the overall length. By the time you have all your nifty guns and grenades and such, the game is at least half over.

In terms of presentation, the game reminds me of RE4: Awesome at the time, but definitely showing its age today. While the texture and model quality holds up better due to the art style, a number of the animations are just clunky and many objects such as grenades have no sense of weight to them. Sound is fair to middling, with the main theme sticking out as mildly catchy while still conveying the bleak atmosphere of the setting. Lastly, while I understand that the universe of Rogue Trooper isn’t as well known as something like Batman, I wish they’d done more to organically teach the players about the world rather than just throwing information into their faces. Something like Assassin’s Creed’s option to read the encyclopedia entry for a new character/enemy right as they first appear would be great. *UPDATE* The level after Nu Paree runs like trash unless you run the game in compatibility mode. Otherwise I’ve found no performance issues but I’m still annoyed that’s a thing.


Heavy-handed as it is, the game does bring you up to speed on this universe very quickly.

For all my quibbling though, my biggest complaint is “I wish there was more of it.” More delving into this unfamiliar universe, more stages, more opportunities to utilize the interesting mechanics. And I believe that sums up my opinion of this title quite succinctly. That’s Rogue Trooper. It’s $10 on Steam. It’s a solid TPS which I’d heartily recommend.

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