Sign Me Up For Lawn Mowing Simulator!

There’s a lot of people making fun of the lawn mower simulator right now but I just watched the trailer and I’m ordering.

Yes, the trailer make it look like Lawn Mowing Simulator just a game about mowing lawns but we all know what the game is really about.  How many weird pictures can you mow in the grass before the homeowner comes home and figures out what you’re doing?  How many sticks and stones can you run your lawn mover over before you have to replace the blade?  Is your lawnmower powerful enough to destroy a pair of roller skates?  If you accidentally clip the neighbor’s yard, do you even it out or do you just play innocent and say you have no idea how that happened?

I did some research and I discovered that this game is not just about lawns.  It’s also a business simulator, where you build your landscaping business from the ground up.  You get chances to upgrade your lawnmower and there’s also mini-games involving trying to find and remove objects from the yard before you actually start cutting the grass.

I’ve actually always enjoyed business sims so this looks like the perfect game for me.  I get the sense of accomplishment of building a successful business without having to worry about accidentally shooting people just because I pushed the wrong button.  Sign me up!

Thank you, Destroy All Humans!

When I reviewed Destroy All Humans! last year, I ended the review by saying that I couldn’t wait for the remake to be released in 2020.  When I wrote those words, I didn’t know just how much 2020 would sometimes make me want to destroy all humans.  It’s been a hell of a year and distractions from reality have been not only welcome but necessary.  I’m happy to say that the remake of Destroy All Humans! lived up to all of my expectations and it’s often been just the distraction that I needed.

With the exception of one new mission (which was planned for but cut from the original), the remake of Destroy All Humans! is the same game as the original.  Some of the images are a little crisper and the sound quality has been improved but there really aren’t any major differences as far as gameplay is concerned.  For me, that’s not a problem because I consider the original Destroy All Humans to be about as perfect as game from the period can be.

For me, Destroy All Humans! is the perfect game for 2020.  If there’s ever been a year that’s called for a full scale alien invasion, it’s been this one.  I’ve destroyed Santa Modesta and the Turnipseed Farm more times than I care to count.  When the news is bad, there’s something very gratifying about boarding a spaceship and blowing up a grain silo.  Normally, I’m not a fan of mindless violence but the key to Destroy All Humans! is that, no matter how many times you blow Santa Modesta, the town is always rebuilt by the time you return.  Destroy All Humans! may not have been made to show that humans are resilient but it really one of the main lessons of the game.

Thank you, Destroy All Humans!, for being there when we needed you.  Now, let’s just hope for a remake of Destroy All Humans 2!

Video Game Review: Spider-Man: Miles Morales (2020, Insomniac Games)

The much anticipated sequel to PS4’s Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Miles Morales puts you in control of the title character, a teenage super hero and scientific genius who is still struggling to learn how to use his powers.  It’s been a year since the conclusion of the previous game and, in that time, Manhattan has struggled to recover from the Devil’s Breath incident.  Crime is still rampant but, luckily, Spider-Man has an assistant to help him out.  Now living in Harlem, Miles Morales can not only do everything that a spider can but he also has a whole host of new powers that the original Spider-Man could only dream of.  Miles is going to need all of them because the original Spider-Man is going to be in Europe for the next few weeks and Miles is going to have to protect New York City on his own.

The main mission finds Miles caught in the middle of a war between Roxxon Oil and the mysterious Tinkerer.  The side missions give Miles a chance to do everything from looking for lost cats to preventing another old foe from engineering a criminal takeover of Harlem.  Along the way, Miles discovers that his uncle is the mercenary known as the Prowler and that his oldest friend, Phin Mason, has a big secret of her own.  He also discovers that he has an entire community willing to support him in his time of need.

I have to admit that it took me a while to get into Spider-Man: Miles Morales.  At the start of the game, Miles is so inexperienced and nervous about filling in for Spider-Man that he actually came across as being a little whiny.  As the game progressed, Miles got more confident and stronger and so did the story.  Spider-Man: Miles Morales is best viewed as a coming of age story.  In the first game, Peter Parker was already an experienced Spider-Man and he knew what he was capable of doing.  Spider-Man: Miles Morales gives us a chance to watch as Miles first comes to realize just how powerful he can be.  The game is all about Miles learning what it means to be a hero and coming to realize that it takes more than just super powers to make the world a better place.  Miles not only discovers his own inner strength but he also the strength of his community.  The game is as much about the people that Miles helps as it is about Miles himself.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales looks great.  While I would like to see a Spider-Man game that takes place in a location other than Manhattan, the island still looks great and one of the joys of the game is just to swing form building to building and appreciate the amount of detail that has been put into the setting.  The game takes place during the holidays, which means that it never stops snowing.  The final battle takes place during a fierce blizzard and it’s a visual tour de force.  The game controls are still simple and easy to master.  Once you figure out how to throw a venom punch, it’s hard not to resist the temptation to do it every single chance that you get.

If I do have a complaint with the game, it’s that it’s too short.  The main mission resolves itself too quickly and the game could have used a few more side missions.  The side missions are often fun and diverting but none of them can really compare to the first game.  None of them are as exciting or as challenging as trying to take down Tombstone or battle the Taskmaster.  Spider-Man: Miles Morales is still a fun game but, because of its shortened length, it feel very much like just one chapter in a much bigger saga.  Fortunately, the main story ends with a hint as to what’s waiting in the future and you’ll definitely want to play the game to the end so that you can see it for yourself.

For the most part, I enjoyed playing Spider-Man: Miles Morales and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for the Spider-Man video game franchise.


Welcome To Silent Hill

Instead of reviewing an IF game today, I decided to instead share what I consider to be one of the greatest video game opening scenes of all time.

I know people who still play Silent Hill just for the opening alone.  Though it may look primitive compared to what we’re used to today, this game really blew everyone’s mind when it first came out in 1999.  This is the game that showed a generation just how good a game could be.  The opening not only set the mood but also let us know that there was more to Silent Hill than just walking down streets and shooting monsters.  This was a game that told a comple story.  That’s something that we take for granted now but, at the time, Silent Hill was revolutionary.

The score was composed by Akira Yamaoka.  He was influenced by Angelo Badalamenti’s work for David Lynch.

Happy Halloween!  I’ve really enjoyed participating in this year’s Horrorthon and I look forward to doing it all over again next year!

Game Review: Doppeljobs (2020, Lei)

Doppeljobs is an entrant in the 2020 Interactive Fiction Competition.  All of the entries can be browsed and experienced here.

You are a Doppelganger.  All you have to do is bite someone and, for a limited amount of time, you can assume their appearance and voice.   Having just graduated from the School of Humanity, you’re ready to set up your own business.  For a generous but fair fee, you will assume the identity of anyone who hires you.  If someone has something that they have to do in person that they would rather not do, they can hire you.  You’ll be the one getting fired from their job.  You’ll be the one getting your license renewed.  You’ll be the one sitting through a boring old recital.

You’ll have to be careful, though.  Let anyone catch on that you’re a doppelganger and the job will be ruined.  Plus, each time you take on someone’s appearance, you also take on some of their traits and some of those traits stick around after the job is done.

I really enjoyed Doppeljobs.  It’s a Twine game, in which you go through a series of clients and you can do as good a job or as bad a job as you may want.  There’s a lot of different decisions to be made and almost every choice leads to a different consequence so this is a game that rewards being replayed.  The best part of the game is seeing which traits you pick up from job to job and how that changes who you are after your final job.  The last time I played, I became not only more paranoid but I also learned to sing.

Doppeljobs can be played here, by either your or your doppelganger.

Game Review: BYOD (2020, n-n)

BYOD is an entrant in the 2020 Interactive Fiction Competition.  All of the entries can be browsed and played here.

You are a university student who has just been given an internship at a prestigious company.  You don’t know much about what the internship involves, you just know that you’re supposed to show up.  However, when you do show up, the secretary tells you that the person you’re supposed to meet is not there.  What do you do now?

BYOD is described as being a “micro interactive fiction” and that’s certainly the perfect way to put it.  This is a simple game that takes place in one room.  There’s really only one thing that you have to do to get the “okay” ending.  If you can figure out how to use your phone in the game, you’ll be fine.

However, if you want to get the “good” ending, you’ll have to be more observant of that room.  You’ll have to look at everything and put the clues together and eventually, you’ll get your chance to help out the secretary.  It’s all pretty simple but it was still emotionally satisfying to help someone out and get the good ending.

BYOD can be played here.

Game Review: Congee (2020, Becci)

This story is an entrant in the 2020 Interactive Fiction Comp.  All of the stories can be browsed and experienced here.

You have recently moved from Hong Kong to the United Kingdom, leaving behind both your mother and your culture.  One night, you find yourself suffering from a fever, missing your mom (and the time difference makes it inconvenient to call her), and, worst of all, craving congee.

(From the game: Congee /ˈkɒndʒiː noun  (in Chinese cooking) broth or porridge made from rice. Meat, fish, and flavourings are added while preparing the congee, and it is most often served as a meal on its own, especially for those who are feeling unwell.)

Like a lot of Twine Interactive Fiction, Congee is less of a game and more of a story with choices.  You can click to get more details and to learn more about the world and the lives of the characters in the story but ultimately, the story is the thing.  It’s a good story, though.  Even though it’s written through the eyes of someone who is dealing with a very specific experience, the themes are universal.  It made me homesick in a good way.

Congee can experienced here.

Game Review: Amazing Quest (2020, Nick Montfort)

Sorry for the lack of reviews yesterday.  After spending two weeks watching Witchcraft movies, I had to take a day off.

This game is an entrant in the 2020 Interactive Fiction Competition.  All of the games can be browsed and played here.

Amazing Quest is a throwback to the vague but addictive PC games of the 80s.  You are returning from a quest.  What quest?  That’s for you to imagine.  Are you a Viking?  Are you a space explorer?  Are you Odysseus, trying to make your way home after the fall of Troy?  Again, that is all for you to imagine.

Each turn, you get a new situation and a prompt.  You’ve come across a new land.  Do you send gifts?  Do you attack?  Click y or n.  The results are as vague as the situation, leaving it to the player to imagine what it all means.  When you send gifts to a recently discovered land and you get to see the sun rise as a result, is it our sun or some other planet’s sun?  The choice is yours.

Amazing Quest is simple and random but also very addictive.  It’s a game that’s designed to spark your imagination.  Play it and seen what story you create.

Amazing Quest can be played here.

Game Review: Fight Forever (2020, Pako)

Fight Forever is an entrant in the 2020 Interactive Fiction Competition.  All of the entries can be browsed and played here.

In this old school, text-based fight simulator, you pick your fighter, you pick your trainer, and then you hope to have a legendary career.  Pick your training regimen.  Decide which fight camp to attend.  Take a chance living your life and seeing what happens.  (The booty call option either works out really well or totally messes you up.)  Toss in a few random intangibles and you’re ready to fight!

I was surprised by how enjoyable Fight Forever turned out to be.  Even though you can’t control what your fighter does in the ring, you can control the training and the strategizing that goes on before he enters that ring and it’s surprisingly satisfying to discover whether or not it paid off.  Make the right decisions and you can move up in the world.  Make the wrong decisions and you’ll probably die after three fights.

According the game’s creator, Fight Forever is stage one in what he hopes to develop into a much more elaborate fighting game.  I hope he continues to develop it because, even incomplete, what he has now is incredibly addictive.

Fight Forever can be played here.

Game Review: The Call of Innsmouth (2020, Tripper McCarthy)

The game is an entrant in the 2020 Interactive Fiction Competition.  All of the entries can be played here!

You are a private detective, working out of Arkham, Massachusetts.  Arkham is a town that’s notorious for its many mysteries.  The locals say that it is a town that’s been touched by the paranormal but you’re a detective.  You deal with the real world.  When a distraught mother hires you to find her missing son, you think that it will just be a routine case.  Instead, it leads you to the decaying port town of Innsmouth, a place that makes even Arkham look normal!

A prequel to H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth, The Call of Innsmouth has all the elements that you would expect from a Lovecraft game.  There’s a trip to Miskatonic University.  There are references to cults, Cthulhu, and the search for ancient and maddening knowledge.  You can even chose to read the Necronomicon if you’re so inclined.  The game warns you not to read it but ultimately, the choice is yours.  Don’t worry though.  If you go crazy or get sacrificed, you always have the option to go back and make a different and hopefully better decision.  That’s a choice that most Lovecraft heroes don’t get.

I enjoyed this Twine game.  The Cthulhu mythos are always good source material for Interactive Fiction and The Call of Innsmouth does a great job of capturing the atmosphere of one of Lovecraft’s stories.  The Call of Innsmouth is a mystery and a game worth exploring.

It can be played here.